InStyle Vacations's Blog

I can’t overstate it: 2022 is special for European travel. If you don’t visit in 2022, you’ll be kicking yourself forever.

Have it all to yourself


Leading up to the pandemic, the most popular cities were getting a bit overrun. Before the crowds return in full force, early 2022 may be the best year of your lifetime to visit Venice, Barcelona, Paris or Amsterdam.

New openings


While you were away, a slew of new hotels have been opening in Europe, and a number of gorgeous river cruise ships have launched, waiting for you to discover a new, favorite 'home away from home.'

Catch up on all the experiences we’ve been missing:


  • the flavors of Europe that taste so much better at the source, like Old World wines at Tuscan vineyards, pilsners brewed by monks and served in biergartens, melt-in-your-mouth cheeses, aged in caves, that you’ve never even heard of before, tapas in the south of Spain, or seafood caught fresh that morning in the Mediterranean, and prepared simply with olive oil, lemons, capers or olives and served with a crisp local white wine that’s cold enough to create condensation on your glass that sparkles in the sunshine;

  • the cultural events that remind so many of us of our heritage, like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, mass at the Vatican, and Oktoberfest in Munich. Going to the opera in Vienna, the Palio horse race in Siena, or the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo; or

  • the sporting events and occasions that have become cultural touchstones, like the style of the Monaco Grand Prix, the cycling epic Tour de France, the royal touch of tennis at Wimbledon, or even playing a round of golf at its birthplace in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, yourself.

Once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences


In addition to all these beloved travel memories waiting to be revisited, some things happening in Europe in 2022 are once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll never forgive yourself for missing:


The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee


2022 marks 70 years since Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne at age 25. She’s already the longest-serving monarch, and a Platinum Jubilee will be truly historic.

Longevity runs in the Queen’s family, with her ancestor Queen Victoria serving 63 years on the throne and her own Queen Mother living over a century. But the simple math suggests the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee - when she’ll be over 95 years old - may be the last, one-of-a-kind milestone jubilee of her reign, or indeed ever.

So Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the U.K. in 2022 are not to be missed for anyone with an interest in royalty, royal history, or being able to tell their own grandchildren that they took part in this historic occasion.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will come with a year-long series of celebrations around the U.K., with the central festivities focused on an extended official long weekend from 2-5 June.

There will be an epic version of the annual Trooping of the Colour to mark the Queen’s official birthday, as well as a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, a special live concert and the Platinum Jubilee Pageant at Buckingham Palace, the lighting of beacons as well as street parties throughout her realm.

It will be an unprecedented - and likely one-of-a-kind - opportunity to be part of a Royal celebration, see your favorite Royals, and be part of history in the making.


Oberammergau


This small Bavarian village has become synonymous with its once-a-decade Passion Play – a recreation of the biblical story of Easter that consumes the entire village for over a year.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE AS THE DIRECTOR, AND THE VILLAGER WHO PLAYS ‘JESUS,’ EXPLAIN THE HISTORY AND MAGIC OF THIS FAMOUS PERFORMANCE

Attending a play that's been performed for hundreds of years in celebration of the most significant Biblical story is a once – maybe twice? – in a lifetime opportunity.

Unfortunately, the pandemic cancelled the Passion Play in 2020… but luckily, the village will stage its Passion Play in 2022 instead, daily from Spring through Fall.

Joining a land tour or river cruise is by far the best way to 'do' Oberammergau - travel companies locked in blocks of the best seats years ago, as well as dining reservations during your time in this small village.


Floriade, the 'World’s Fair' of Horticulture


Every 10 years, this ‘World’s Fair’ of flowers upstages even the Netherlands’ glorious 'Tulip Time.'

Horticulture is famously the Netherlands’ most ‘colorful’ industry. The country sells half of the world’s ‘floriculture’ products and over three-quarters of the world’s flower bulbs. It’s number one in greenhouse horticulture and leads global exports of cut flowers, ornamental plants and even trees.

The ultimate celebration of horticulture, Floriade, happens only 10 times a century, and the next one is in 2022.
Floriade is the largest public event in the Netherlands, drawing 2 million visitors over six months between April and October to its vast displays of almost any plant that grows, in stunning gardens, installations, pavilions and greenhouses, displays from exhibitors around the world and a vibrant arts and culture program.

Floriade 2022 takes place in a purpose-built, ultra-modern, 150-acre ‘garden city’ near Amsterdam.


An electric scale-model train moves visitors around the vast site, and a 35-meter high, 850-meter long cable car provides an incredible view of what will seem like the Garden of Eden below.

Like many other ticketed events, it pays to be part of an escorted group to Floriade, with guaranteed access and no need to line up with people waiting for tickets.


2022 Travel Tip


No matter what’s on your travel list in 2022, we have one big travel tip: book soon.

With people using their stored-up travel credits, and everyone looking to make up lost travel time, some events and blocks of tickets are already selling out.

Now’s the time to start planning with your expert travel advisor to return to Europe in 2022 with a bang.

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host of BestTrip TV


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.








This New Museum in Oslo is a Real 'Scream'
Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream' is one of the most famously eery pieces of art in history, and it continues to disturb admirers today.

Now, MUNCH, a new museum and landmark architectural masterpiece on Oslo’s waterfront, has opened, with the world’s largest collection of works by the famed Norwegian artist. That includes several versions of Munch’s iconic work, The Scream, including an early study in pastel from 1893 and a later painted version from 1910.

More than 26,000 works bequeathed by the artist to the City of Oslo are housed in the massive museum with unparalleled views of the Oslo Fjord. It’s one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist.

11 exhibition halls feature not only versions of Munch’s most famous, disturbing work, but also over half of Munch’s known works, from paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and watercolours by the artist, ranging from 1873 to 1944, to monumental mural paintings like The Sun (1909), which stretches nearly 8 meters.

While Munch is best-known for The Scream, he also experimented with various media and techniques at the edge of modernism. In addition to the paintings, watercolours and woodblock prints for which he is best known, Munch bought a Kodak camera in 1902 and is recognized today as one of the first artists to experiment with self-portrait photography.

The museum’s collection also includes thousands of other items included in Edvard Munch’s original bequest to Oslo such as his printing plates and lithographic stones as well as thousands of letters and approximately 10,000 of the artist’s personal belongings.

Image: Munchmuseet

Alongside personal items and displays of iconic artworks from the renowned permanent collection, temporary exhibitions will show Edvard Munch’s lasting influence in his own contemporary society, as well as on today’s generation of artists.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the highlights of Edvard Munch’s work and influence, visitors will get to enjoy a wide-ranging program of cultural events and experiences for art lovers of all ages, including concerts of all types of historic and ultra-modern music, literature readings, performance and art workshops.

That includes those interested in modern architecture and the transformation of the Oslo city skyline.

Image: Munchmuseet

Right on the edge of the Fjord and in the heart of Oslo’s city life on the water, MUNCH was designed and created in homage to Edvard Munch’s connection to the Norwegian landscape and his habit of painting outdoors in all seasons.

The top floor opens up into an observation area, offering some of Oslo’s most spectacular views. The perforated, translucent aluminium façade reflects the changing colours and conditions of the Oslo skies. Visitors can also enjoy dining in the 13th floor restaurant with views overlooking the city and Fjord.

A can’t-miss destination on your next trip to the Norwegian capital.

#StartYourTrip!

All images courtesy MUNCH






8 German Words You Need to Fit in at Oktoberfest
It’s Oktoberfest time again. The festival traditionally held annually in Bavaria’s capital of Munich, with similar events throughout the entire region, is one of the world’s most epic celebrations.

Name notwithstanding, Oktoberfest actually runs for just over two weeks from mid-late September to the first Sunday in October. It’s been cancelled again in 2021, but that gives you time to brush up on your vocabulary – and German beer drinking skills – until you can visit Munich’s Oktoberfest soon.

Here are a few expressions you’ll want to file away for good use at your next Munich – or backyard – Oktoberfest.

Bier

The word needs no translation, but it is what Oktoberfest is all about. According to recent stats, nearly 8 million liters, or around 16 million pints, were served to 6 million locals and visitors who thronged to the Munich Oktoberfest.
 
Bier is not just Bavarians’ favorite beverage, there’s a special one brewed exclusively for Oktoberfest every year: Oktoberfestbier. It has to meet certain standards, including German Beer Purity Laws and it must be brewed within Munich city limits.
 
Note to self: Oktoberfestbier is stronger than normal German beers, at 6% alcohol content.
 
Bonus word: Bierhallen. Pretty self-explanatory. The place they drink the beer during Oktoberfest.

Prost

 
This word involves essential Oktoberfest etiquette. Prost is German for ‘cheers’ (and a generally good word to know outside of Oktoberfest too!). You toast before drinking your beer, and you must look into your drinking friends’ eyes, raise your beer stein, clink, and shout (yes, shout) Prost! (Pronounced Prohst!)
 
You’ll find yourself doing ein Prosit often, and the bands in the Bierhallen strike up a specific tune every 20 minutes for a tent-wide toast, too.
 

Wurst

The jokes make themselves, when it comes to the German word for sausage. The ‘best’ of the ‘Wurst’. And so on. Actually, it’s pronounced ‘Vurst’, which is much less conducive to joking.

There are many kinds of Wurst to have with your Bier. In Germany you’ll likely encounter ‘Weisswurst’, which means ‘white sausage,’ and refers to its ingredients: minced veal and pork; Kasewurst, which has cheese inside, and of course every man-cave in North America has some Bratwurst, which just means finely-chopped meat in the sausage casing, usually pork.

Maybe the best thing about the Wurst is the wonderful variety of mustards served with them. You’ll quickly learn which kind of ‘Senf’ you like with which ‘Wurst’.
 

Tracht

For Germans and visitors alike, Oktoberfest is about ‘getting your Tracht on.’ Tracht refers to traditional costume in Germany and also other German-speaking countries. Oktoberfest guests are encouraged to get into the local culture and spirit by donning Tracht, and you have two choices:

Dirndl
A traditional alpine dress for women, dirndls consist of a long skirt, white blouse, bodice that’s done up so tight it can’t help being very eye-catching, and apron in vivid colors. It’s derived from a Bavarian word for ‘girl,’ and many women keep a hand-made, heirloom dirndl in the closet for formal, not just beer-drinking, occasions, like attending weddings.
 
Lederhosen  
The male equivalent simply means ‘leather pants.’ Actually, they’re shorts, usually worn with a white shirt, warm knee socks, suspenders/ braces and some go for the whole look with special shoes. Bonus points for a dashing wool felt hat with a jaunty feater - that’s also a symbol of the region.
 

Gemutlichkeit

 
There’s no exact English translation for this word, pronounced something like ‘geh-MOOT-ly-kite’) but it is the essence – even more than beer – of Oktoberfest.
 
Some call it fellowship, friendliness, or even good times. It’s the atmosphere surrounding you at Oktoberfest as you clink beer mugs with new and old friends.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image: BestTrip TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



5 Top Places to Nama-'Stay' During National Yoga Month
For many of us, September feels more like the ‘New Year’ than when the calendar says it’s January. Time to exhale, regroup, and reset yourself on a fulfilling course for the future, one that includes meeting life and wellness goals.
Maybe that’s why September is National Yoga Month.

The ideal time to practice – or at least plan for - two intersecting life goals: more yoga and more travel.

Here are 5 inspired places to practice yoga on an enriching journey. 
 

Flamingo Yoga at Baha Mar, The Bahamas

Located on the pristine white sands of Cable Beach in Nassau, Baha Mar is a tropical island dreamscape, no matter which of its three beachfront resorts best suits your luxury travel style. Whether you choose to stay in the richly refined Rosewood, the playfully hip SLS, or the stylish and modern Grand Hyatt, stunning views and an epic selection of pools and resort experiences awaits.
 
Flamingo Cay is a unique habitat within Baha Mar, designed to shelter these iconic and vivid tropical waterbirds, to educate guests about flamingos and preserve their population in The Bahamas for future generations. 
 

For guests who practice yoga, there’s also an exceptional experience - Flamingo Yoga (pictured above and top) - where guests can practice their flamingo poses, breathing techniques, and mindfulness with the ultimate yoga experts – the Baha Mar Ambassador Flamingos.

The Yoga Instructor is dedicated to working with the flamingos and is on hand to educate guests and look after the birds. The classes are small and intimate, once-weekly sessions that will embed themselves in your memory as a treasured wellness and travel experience.

 

‘Flo-Yo’ in a ‘Spa Without Walls’, Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii



The Fairmont Orchid is uniquely Hawaiian: 32 oceanfront acres with a white sand beach on the black-lava Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island. When you’re not snorkeling with sea turtles in the resort’s private lagoon, napping in a hammock, immersing yourself in Hawaiian cultural activities like storytelling, hula and ukulele, watching the sun rise from a traditional outrigger canoe on the bay… you can rediscover your inner, primal human, surrounded by rushing waterfalls, and greenery, orchids and palms in the resort’s ‘Spa Without Walls.’


Where the indoors is outdoors in paradise, it seems easier to realign mind and body balance immersed in Nature.
 
The resort offers complimentary seaside and sunset yoga, and ‘flo-yo’ or floating yoga on stand-up paddleboards in the quiet waters of the resort’s quiet, private lagoon – a beautiful way to start the day – and a complete core workout where warm ocean breezes and lapping waves set the pace and soothe the spirits.


SUP Yoga at the Westin Bayshore, Vancouver

It may be the essential Vancouver wellness experience. Where stand up paddleboard meets downward dog – in a South Beach-style pool overlooking Vancouver's seawall and mountains.

On a fair summer day in Vancouver, British Columbia, the locals joke it's like 'British California'. And it seems that somehow, every resident and visitor in town is outdoors or on the water.
 
The Liquid Yoga program offered by Just Add Water Yoga at the Westin Bayshore gives hotel guests – and the general public – a unique way to be part of Vancouver’s famed local wellness and open air culture - in the security of a pool as an aquatic yoga studio, rather than the open sea like other SUP yoga.

Photo: BestTrip.TV
Didn't bring workout wear? We love that guests can take advantage of the Run Westin's gear lending program.
 
Liquid Yoga is a terrific way to enjoy the Westin Bayshore's gorgeous, circular pool, and its views of Vancouver's harbor, seawall and mountains.
 

Sun-Rise Yoga at Sea in the Caribbean on Virgin Voyages

Imagine yoga on the deck of a sailing ship at dawn, with the sun peeking over the horizon, the sounds and the sights of the sea all around, and the shifting of the ship in the waves adding just a touch of challenge to your core in holding those poses, greeting the new day filling your lungs with fresh sea air.… take it from me: this is living.


One of the most unique places to do yoga overlooking the infinite sea is Virgin Voyages.

Richard Branson’s cheeky new, ‘breaking-the-mould-of-cruising’ cruise line taps into the celebrity billionaire’s history as a music industry entrepreneur. The newly-launched Virgin Voyages feels a lot like a hip, tropical club at sea, with Branson himself telling me that the tables in suites were designed to be danced on!

The line takes a ‘detox, retox’ approach to the cruise lifestyle, so in addition to a nightclub atmosphere, champagne on demand anywhere on the ship, and the first tattoo parlor at sea, guests on the line’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady will also find their daytime downtime wellness options robust.


It starts with the ‘Aquatic Club’ outdoor pool deck, and continues with such wildly different wellness options as outdoor boxing, to meditation and yes, sun-rise yoga.
 

Yoga On the Top Deck of a European River Cruise on U By Uniworld

Before Virgin Voyages launched a new way of cruising, U By Uniworld reimagined river cruising for ‘Active Travelers’, with distinctive, modern black-hulled river ships and a whole new approach to experiencing the shore and the ship. It’s more of a hipster river cruise, with mixology (bar chefs), overnights in key European cities for clubbing, dance parties on board in a private ship version of a club, top deck ‘camping’, a modern approach to cuisine – and yes, yoga!

After an exciting night, guests are welcome to greet the day with complimentary, morning top-deck yoga sessions, led by the ship’s wellness coach.


Why do yoga on a European river cruise? The views are sure to help with the meditation.

Some of the very best views of favorite European cities are from the rivers that run through them. Without the congestion of other buildings around, you can absorb the breathtaking historic beauty of cities that were built on rivers when they - not roads – were the highways of Europe.

Early morning, top-deck yoga in European cities gives you a unique, over-the-rail perspective on some of the most inspiring cityscapes on the continent, and a way to absorb some of the city’s energy before an active day of exploring walking, hiking, cycling or kayaking through town.  
 

#StartYourTrip


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host, BestTrip TV

Images courtesy of their respective hotels/ cruise lines except where otherwise stated.










You’ve Missed Danube Day But You Can Still Discover Europe’s Record-Breaking River
Every year on June 29th, eighty-one million people in 14 European countries celebrate the single river that ties them together and provides drinking water, food, power, recreation, jobs and transportation.

Danube Day annually marks the signing of the Danube River Protection Convention, which facilitates collaboration between the countries of the Danube River and the rivers that flow into it to ensure that it’s clean, healthy and safe. 
It’s also the largest river festival in the world. Huge celebrations take place on the riverbanks of towns along the waterway, in addition to clean-ups and greening activities, and educational events. 

That’s just one day of the year. But any visit to the region is the perfect time to discover what makes mainland Europe’s biggest waterway so special.

At 1770 miles (2,850 km), the Danube is the longest river in mainland Europe (only Russia’s Volga is longer).

Beginning in Germany’s Black Forest, the Danube flows southeast all the way across Central and Eastern Europe to drain into the Black Sea. It served as a vital transportation and trade route as well as food source for the earliest humans in Europe and was even the frontier of the Roman Empire.

Today, the Danube flows through more countries than any other river in the world. In a very real way, the region was built from the river inland. In addition to countless cities and towns that were built along its river banks beginning in ancient times, the Danube also flows through more national capital cities than any other river on the planet.

The capitals are the largest cities on the Danube, and include the can’t-miss European destinations and cultural and historic centers of Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Bratislava.
 
There are land tours in many of the countries and communities along the Danube. But perhaps the most authentic way to experience the river is to travel on it.

River cruises allow you to follow the footsteps of the ancient Europeans who navigated the river fishing, and trading goods from Eurasia into the heart of the continent, who established vineyards in the optimal terrain of steep riverbanks and microclimates nurtured along the Danube’s shores, and built the iconic cityscapes that are the hallmark of a Central European vacation. A night time sailing past the illuminated, riverbank Budapest parliament buildings (pictured top) should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.

A cruise that calls in the towns and ports in the countryside along the banks of what Strauss called “The Beautiful Blue Danube”, you’ll have a whole week of ‘Danube Days’ – and memories of a lifetime.

#StartYourTrip!

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






World's Longest River Cruise Set for 2023

46 nights. 7 rivers. 14 countries. You’ve heard of ocean ‘World Cruises’. This is the first of its kind for river cruising and may be the start of a whole new river cruise travel trend.

 
The longest-ever river cruise itinerary is the perfect way to refill a love for cruising that’s been running dry since the pandemic. AmaWaterways calls it the ‘Seven River Journey Through Europe’, and it sails in 2023.
 
Similar in spirit to ocean ‘World Cruises’, this river cruise version is different in a couple of ways. Almost all ocean World Cruises depart in the New Year, sailing for months on a single ship. The Seven River Journey Through Europe departs June 1st at the height of fine weather in Europe. And instead of a single ship squiring guests around the world, guests on the Seven River Journey are taken on seamless overland transfers between four AmaWaterways ships
 
The first leg of the Seven River Journey sails the Seine round-trip from Paris on the AmaLyra. Switch to the AmaKristina for a cruise from Lyon to Tarascon, France on the Saône and Rhône rivers, then on the AmaPrima on the Rhine, Moselle and Main rivers between Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The final leg of the epic, nearly two-month long river cruise odyssey concludes on the AmaVerde on the Danube river, sailing through Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.
 
Experienced river cruise travelers may have experienced ‘back-to-back’ river cruises before, but this is an entirely new experience. 144 guests take the entire journey together, developing deep friendships during this extraordinary exploration of the heart of some of Europe’s greatest history, culture, architecture, culinary and wine regions.

 
The cruise brings the destinations to life through more than 130 complimentary excursions including all-new tours and exclusive experiences that include 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites and local epicurean experiences. Picture yourself and your travel companions sailing through the romantic city of Paris, venturing to the historic D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, being treated to an exclusive visit to Lahneck Castle in Germany, and visiting off-the-beaten-path wonders in countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.
 
On board the four AmaWaterways river ships, in addition to fine dining and hand-selected wines at every meal in multiple onboard venues, a Wellness Host offers a variety of core strengthening, stretching and yoga classes, and all of the amenities AmaWaterways’ guests have come to love.
 
The company has also included features often found on luxury and small ships embarking on World or Grand cruises, like complimentary laundry and portage services, as well as included gratuities and a dedicated Cruise Manager to accompany and guide guests throughout all 46 nights, 7 rivers, 14 countries and 4 ships.
 
When the company teased the Seven River Journey Through Europe on social media, the response was so overwhelming, it seems certain to become a new and growing tradition for AmaWaterways in future cruise seasons. Other river cruise lines may well launch their own versions, too.
 
But at the moment, there’s only one chance to be part of cruise history and the first Seven River Journey Through Europe, so our tip is to check your travel calendar and consult with your travel advisor soon.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images courtesy AmaWaterways

  Every 10 Years, This ‘World’s Fair’ of Flowers Upstages Netherlands’ Tulip Time. Don’t Miss Floriade 2022
 
If you thought Tulip Time in the Netherlands was the ultimate garden travel experience, you haven’t heard about Floriade.

Horticulture is famously the Netherlands’ most ‘colorful’ industry. The country sells half of the world’s ‘floriculture’ products and over three-quarters of the world’s flower bulbs. It’s number one in greenhouse horticulture and leads global exports of cut flowers, ornamental plants and even trees.

One of the most magnificent Dutch travel experiences is an early spring – ‘Tulip Time’ – visit to Keukenhof, the world’s largest spring flower garden featuring 7 million spring bulbs including over a thousand varieties of tulips alone. But even this experience – marvellous for visitors as it is – is actually a functioning, outdoor trade show exhibiting the best and latest bulb varieties for buyers from around the world.

Tulip Time, where a drive through the southern provinces of the Netherlands reveals fields of blooming tulips as far as the eye can see, and Keukenhof garden tours, luckily take place every year.

Floriade happens only 10 times a century.

Some call it the ‘World’s Fair’ of horticulture, and the next one is in 2022, just in time for travel-hungry people to ensure their post-pandemic travel plans include the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime collection of vivid memories.
 
Floriade is the largest public event in the country, drawing 2 million visitors over six months between April and October to its vast displays of almost any plant that grows, in stunning gardens, installations, pavilions and greenhouses.

 
The exhibition moves around, with this Floriade taking place in a purpose-built, ultra-modern, 150-acre ‘garden city’ built on land reclaimed from the sea near Amsterdam.
 
The theme in 2022 is ‘Growing Green Cities’, with exhibitors from the Netherlands and around the world displaying green solutions and next-generation innovations and inventions for enjoyable, liveable and sustainable urban centers. 
 
Like the term ‘World’s Fair of Horticulture’ suggests, Floriade offers 40 inspiring country presentations which will also house a spectacular greenhouse complex, a cable car over the Floriade park, pavilions with sustainable innovations and a vibrant arts and culture programme. An electric scale-model train moves visitors around the vast site, and a 35-meter high, 850-meter long cable car provides an incredible view of what will seem like the Garden of Eden below.

 
Other highlights of Floriade include: an international collection of plants, flowers and trees and 14,000 bulbs organized alphabetically ‘A to Z’ in nearly 200 sections of a vast arboretum like you’re walking through a plant encyclopedia, Alice in Wonderland style.

A visit to Floriade includes culinary experiences, entertainment and culture, and the intersection of horticulture and art, like the ‘life artwork’ project ‘Bobbing Forest’ consisting of 20 recycled sea buoys from the North Sea, planted with Dutch Elm trees even as they ‘bob’ in the water, which you can view from the cable car or on a tour boat that departs from a waterside terrace.

The theme even has a double meaning, since the site is set to become a new urban district once the expo closes. Its name will be ‘Hortus’, meaning ‘garden’ in Latin, and some future homes have already been built that will serve as pavillions during Floriade and in a perfect ‘green’ re-purposing, revert to homes afterwards.

 

How To Floriade

 
Like many other ticketed events, it pays to be part of an escorted group with guaranteed access and no need to line up with people waiting for tickets.

Amsterdam is the jumping off point for both Floriade and the Netherland’s spectacular spring flower garden Keukenhof. 

It’s also a hub for land, ocean, and river travel, which means there are options for people of all travel styles to immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty and inspiring innovation of Floriade.

Here are a few of our favorites:

LAND TOURS:


Check out: Trafalgar 

Trafalgar’s guests on tours like Amsterdam Explorer and Best of Holland will spend a full day at the Floriade, and “Dive Into Culture” and discover what it would be like to live in a city which is built with environmental sustainability at its core. You’ll explore the location's three districts, each with their own theme – Food, Health and Energy, and the ‘Green Island’, along with live entertainment, cultural shows and culinary delights. In addition to Floriade, you’ll cruise the canals or bike through Amsterdam, taste cheese in Gouda, learn how pottery is made in Delft, and taste exquisite chocolate.
 

 RIVER CRUISES

 
Check out: Uniworld, Avalon Waterways, Tauck, Scenic and Emerald Cruises

Luxury, boutique river cruise Uniworld is including Floriade as a ‘Choice Excursion’ on three of its 2022 itineraries, including the new Dutch Delight, as well as European Jewels and Remarkable Rhine and Historical Holland cruises on the cosmopolitan, richly elegant River Empress ship. Uniworld guests will have enjoy a full day excursion to Floriade, where you will stroll the expansive arboretum, sample healthful foods and learn about developments in sustainable architecture and energy.
 
Ultra-luxury river cruise line Tauck includes the Floriade experience on select Rhine River cruises in 2022. One of the things that sets the cruise line apart are its ‘Tauck Exclusive’ private shore experiences, which in this region of Europe, can include things like a pre-opening visit to the open-air Zuiderzee Museum; a private evening at the acclaimed Mauritshuis museum, where you will view masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer (including his iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring) and others and have dinner with live music for you and your fellow guests only; a cruise on the IJsselmeer aboard a century-old sailboat; and tease for, “a special Dutch treat at Floriade 2022.
 
Avalon Waterways is offering travellers on 8-day Active Discovery in Holland & Belgium, and Tulips of Northern Holland sailings (as well as a number of Rhine and multi-river cruises) the opportunity to sail, enjoying the only open-air balconies in river cruising with floor to ceiling, sliding glass windows facing your bed, then stop and smell the roses at Floriade, a featured, included excursion, giving guests the chance to join the celebration of phenomenal flora in all its finery and fill their senses with color, fragrance and fantastic food.
 
Scenic has increased its 2022 departures for Windmills, Tulips and Belgian Delights cruise, and for cruises from April to October, you’ll visit Floriade. The luxury river cruise line will also offer a two night extension to visit Floriade to Danube, Rhine and multi-river cruises between end of April to October that take care of all your planning and logistics for you, and allow you to spend as much time at Floriade as you like.
Sister line Emerald Cruises has similar options.
 

OCEAN CRUISES


Check out: Crystal

Ultra-luxury Crystal cruises include Floriade on sailings on their legendary ocean ships calling in Amsterdam, including London-roundtrip Gardens and Gateways, as well as London-Stockholm and Copenhagen-Reykjavik.
 

ASK US ABOUT THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO FLORIADE IN 2022.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon



Images/ renderings courtesy Floriade

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.











3 Top Trips for Golfers Who Cruise - From Close to Home to Around the World
Suddenly, everyone is golfing again.
With only a few minor tweaks that courses have easily implemented, the game checks all the boxes for a COVID-safe pastime. So it’s no surprise that even less committed golfers have dusted off the clubs, rediscovering the delights to be found on the greens.
As we rediscover travel, the same features that make golf the ideal pursuit in our own neighborhoods also make it an excellent theme for your post-COVID travels.
The list of famous golf courses, resorts and destinations is long and world-wide. And there’s one unique way to enjoy multiple, top-tier courses on one, relaxed trip where you check into a single, floating 'hotel' that takes you to multiple courses: golf-themed cruises.
With a concierge approach that gives guests access to courses and tee times they might not be able to arrange themselves, golf cruises allow golfers who love the cruise lifestyle to enjoy two passions on one trip.
Here are three top picks:

Golf Cruise on the Mississippi River

Cruise line: American Queen Steamboat Company

Golfers have one chance in May to enjoy this unique American cruise. AQSC’s ‘American River Golf Classic’ 9-day cruise from Memphis to New Orleans gives golfers the chance to play at 4 of the most prestigious courses along the Lower Mississippi River, with an option to play in New Orleans after you disembark, too.
While American Queen sails the country’s largest paddleboat, on this journey, you’ll sail on her sleek and contemporary sister ship, the American Countess, complete with custom Italian fabrics, rich walnut wood, premium linens, a host of sociable or secluded verandas with comfy seating in the tradition of Southern hospitality, floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of Ol’ Miss, and fresh, regional cuisine. You’ll be one of the first to experience her elegant décor as she makes her way down the mighty Mississippi.
Iconic cities of the South on this golf cruise include Natchez, Mississippi, St. Francisville and Baton Rouge Louisiana, with included overnight stay in Memphis before the cruise departs and disembarking in NOLA. The Lower Mississippi River has stories to share – a legacy that flows from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico. A new chapter – and a new golf course - awaits around each river bend.
Golfers enjoy four top-rated local courses along with the history, culture and memorable scenery of the South, including:
·     Colonial Country Club in Memphis;
·     Copper Mill Golf Club in Zachary, Louisiana;
·     Black Bear Golf Club near Vicksburg;
·     The Bluffs Golf & Sports Resort in St. Francisville, an Arnold Palmer designed course;
·     With an option to play at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans after disembarkation.
That’s up to 5 top courses in different cities in 9 days, with the relaxation of a river cruise and the company of fellow cruise travelers and golfers – with your golfing made easy. The cruise line’s ‘Rounds on the River’ package includes lunches, special giveaways, a special guest appearance from a recognized golf expert and professional, all equipment transportation and club cleaning prior to play.

 

Golf Cruise in the Heart of Europe on the Danube River

Cruise line: AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways’ Concierge Golf Program offers the same opportunity to golf at world-class courses all in one trip. Along the storied Danube, that means golfing in multiple countries during a 12-night journey that includes pre- and post- cruise stays in Prague and Budapest at either end of a 7-day voyage on AmaWaterways’ flagship AmaMagna. At twice the width of any other river ship, it has re-imagined river cruising with more personal space, more dining venues, more leisure space and activities than any other ship sailing the rivers of the world.
There are nearly a dozen departures of the Concierge Golf Program from May through October that include the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. The route features some of Europe’s premier UNESCO sites, fabled culture, architecture, beer gardens, local wines and scenic sailing. 
Even if you’ve sailed the Danube before, the exciting golf programming is a whole new way to enjoy the region. Golfers on the program play at:
·     Albatross Golf Club in Prague, host of the Czech Open, featuring 7 lakes and bordering on a nature reserve;
·     Quellness Golf Resort in Bad Griesbach, Germany, host of the Porsche European Open
·     Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria;
·     Penati Country Club in Slovakia and host of the Slovakia Open, a ‘Nicklaus Design LEGEND COURSE’ that meets world PGA standards with a fantastic view; and
·     Pannonia Country Club in Budapest, and host of the Hungarian Open, designed by famous Austrian course designer Hans. G. Erhardt.
It’s the European golf trip of your dreams where your luxury hotel follows you from one dynamic destination to the next. The program makes the cruise – to – golf experience seamless and easy for golfers. Guests are transferred from ship to course and back by private luxury Mercedes. Your tee time, practice balls and golf cart are prepared in advance, and after your round, you enjoy lunch in the course clubhouse with beer and wine all included. When it’s time to transfer back to the AmaMagna, your clubs will be cleaned and ready for the next course on your golf odyssey.

 

Golf Cruises Around the World

PerryGolf on Azamara

Azamara, the boutique ocean cruise line, doesn’t just offer a single golf itinerary. For a decade, it’s been partnered with luxury golf vacation company PerryGolf to offer a selection of golf cruises that just keeps growing. There are now two dozen golf voyages that include play at over 70 marquee courses in 23 countries, including some of the top 100 courses in the world, like Ireland's Royal Portrush, Scotland's Turnberry and New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers.
Above: Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland
Top: Emirates Golf Club (Majlis Course) in Dubai
The voyages follow the sun and the prime golfing seasons around the world, beginning in the New Year Down Under in Australia and New Zealand, plus a new South Africa golf cruise, followed by Spring and Summer in Europe, in the Med as well as the Baltics including St. Petersburg, plus a new itinerary to Norway, as well as flagship itineraries in the British Isles with country-intensive voyages to Scotland and Ireland, then in the Autumn, the dramatic courses of the Arabian Gulf countries and South America late in the year, including a first-time sailing from Rio to Buenos Aires.
Depending on the destination, cruises range from 7 to 17 nights, with between 3 and 6 rounds of golf on a cruise. There’s a full-time PerryGolf program manager on board your cruise as well as onsite at each course, and you’re taken care of at every step, including tee times, carts or caddies, pairings, competitions, social events for fellow golfers on board, handling of your golf equipment, transfers and tips. It’s like an international floating golf club that’s unparalleled in cruising.
Everyone’s considering what types of trips to kick-start post-COVID travel with peace of mind. The outdoor distancing of golf and the appeal of access to multiple new, world-class courses, combined with the luxury and convenience of a safe, single floating hotel that transports you to different destinations with exciting new courses every day, make golf cruises more popular than ever.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV producer host and cruise expert

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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4 Places to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day

2020 likely marks the last major milestone anniversaries for the Second World War with living members of the Greatest Generation.

May 8th is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day.

The day was marked at the time by a spontaneous eruption of joy throughout the streets of London after years of losses under siege and aerial bombardment by the Nazis. Images sent around the world of partying crowds, Churchill and the Royal Family waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace remain among the most iconic images of 20th century history. (VJ Day in the Pacific theatre, came a few months later).
Plans for dramatic and ceremonial remembrances of VE Day’s 75th anniversary have been stymied by the COVID pandemic. Instead the Queen, who as a very young woman during the War served in uniform as a mechanic, is issuing a rare televised address with her personal memories. In a very moving tribute, a national singalong is also planned with people standing in their yards and doorways and balconies joining to sing the unofficial anthem of British pluck during WW2, Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ with Dame Vera Lynn herself leading from a window at her home.
North American history buffs or remembering family and community members who contributed to the defeat of the Nazis have had their travel plans to VE Day commemorations cancelled.
But you can plan now a pilgrimage for a personal commemoration of a turning point in the history of the world.

Here are 4 top destinations to commemorate critical pillars of the Victory in Europe:



The Soldiers:

D-Day Landing Beaches, Normandy, France
Before there was VE Day, 11 months earlier, there was D-Day: June 6, 1944.
A fabled event in military history, D-Day was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Operation Overlord achieved the extraordinary feat of landing 24,000 Allied soldiers to re-take the Nazi-fortified beaches of France. It was the beginning of the liberation of Europe that ended on VE Day.
Canada's Juno Beach, Britain's Sword and Gold Beaches, and America's Omaha and Utah Beaches remain an essential travel destination to honor, first-hand, the monumental task and tremendous sacrifices of D-Day, and walk in the very footsteps of the soldiers who landed there. The isolated D-Day Landing Beaches (above and top) with cliffs, restored battlefield sites, museums and oh, so many cemetaries are essential travel destinations.
 


The Leaders: 

Churchill War Rooms, London
Of all the political and military leaders who strove together towards victory, Sir Winston Churchill remains legendary. The British Prime Minister was one of the earliest leaders to resolve to defeat Nazism, and his eloquent speeches (still often quoted today) and steadfast refusal to give up hope famously rallied the British and Allies to victory.
Nazi planes flew nightly over the English Channel to bomb the capital, and Londoners blacked out the city and retreated underground. Thousands spent nights in London’s ‘tube’ stations. The government went underground, too, into a complex underneath the Treasury building in Whitehall. Knowing what was coming, construction on the War Rooms began in 1938. Operations there began just a week before the war began, and the lights weren’t turned off for the next six years until the war was over.
Today’s fascinating and evocative Churchill War Rooms museum includes restored government wartime command center and a museum devoted to Churchill’s life. 

 

The Victims: 

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Of the millions of military casualties and civilian victims, the diary of Anne Frank remains the most famous personal story, and the young girl herself remains the symbol of the over one million Jewish Europeans exterminated by the Nazis.
Anne Frank House preserves the tiny suite of rooms in central Amsterdam where Anne, her parents and sister and four other people hid behind a bookshelf for over two years in fear of capture by Nazi occupiers.
Not long before the liberation of the Netherlands, the group was discovered and Anne was sent to a concentration camp where she died. Her diary of her life in hiding was saved and published, and ensured her voice and story and the lessons of the Holocaust continue through the ages. 
The gripping and emotional museum features the life and times of Anne Frank and the dangers of persecution and intolerance.

The Home Front:

Your Own Neighborhood
Communities large and small across North America have cenotaphs listing the names of fallen local residents who went off to war.
Veterans’ homes, the Legion… places for current generations to serve veterans exist close to home.
And many local museums show the heroic efforts of the wives, mothers, girlfriends, workers in industry and farming who made the achievements on the front lines possible.
Until we can travel again, once it’s safe to move around in your community, find a way to acknowledge in your hometown the service of the veterans who won Victory in Europe in 1945.
 

#PlanNowTravelLater


 
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 The COVID-19 pandemic is cancelling Easter celebrations large and small around the world. Thousand-year-old cathedrals will make history as they remain empty and silent.

Enter Andrea Angel Bocelli.

Celine Dion has said that, 'if God has a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.'

The Italian tenor who made pop music audiences fall in love with classical opera, who has received cultural honors in his home country and also has Grammy awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame… is taking this unprecedented opportunity to fill Milan’s empty cathedral with music on Easter Sunday 2020. 

Milan’s Duomo dates back to the 1300’s. It is the largest church in Italy (St. Peter’s Basilica is larger, but it’s in the independent state of Vatican City). That makes it the 2nd largest in all of Europe. Milan’s Duomo is famous not just for the size of the building, but also for the 225-rank pipe organ which is the biggest in Italy, and for the gold Madonna gazing out onto the city from a perch nearly 360 feet at the top of one of the church’s many spires.

(Getty)

It’s also in the heart of the region of Italy hardest-hit by COVID-19.

Bocelli is making sure everyone’s Easter is filled with uplifting music, singing a solo concert Andrea Bocelli: Music for Hope in the Milan Duomo.
 
The 61-year old tenor and cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli will perform soaring hymns like “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria” in the dramatic surroundings of the Duomo. 
 
And while the pews in Milan and around the world will be empty, the point of the Music for Hope concert is to “send a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world.”
 
So the Music for Hope will be livestreamed globally HERE on Bocelli’s YouTube channel beginning at 1 pm Eastern Time on Easter Sunday in a gesture the beloved tenor hopes will unite everyone facing the pandemic.

'I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone - whether they are believers or not - truly needs right now,” Bocelli said, “Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth's pulsing heart.”
 
He also hopes the concert symbolizes renewal of the society so disrupted by the pandemic. “It will be a joy to witness it, in the Duomo, during the Easter celebration which evokes the mystery of birth and rebirth.”
 
The Music for Hope concert isn’t the only way Bocelli is contributing. In addition to Sunday’s concert, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation is part of a campaign to purchase more medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients. And the acclaimed tenor also performs on April 18th’s virtual concert One World: Together at Home, raising money for charities providing food, shelter and healthcare to those in need as a result of the continuing crisis.
 
But it’s the Music for Hope concert in the hauntingly empty venue of Milan’s Duomo that will uplift the world on Easter Sunday.

And inspire us to think of happy days when we can once again travel to experience the gifts of Italian culture in person.

(via Andrea Bocelli /YouTube)




It’s been going on for 400 years. Every year ending in 0: 1990, 2000, 2010… and this German cultural tradition was supposed to happen again in 2020. read more
Top Souvenirs from a Trip to... Ireland
If you’re one of the almost 20% of Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry – or have fallen in love with the lore of the ‘Emerald Isle’ – a trip to Ireland is the perfect way to immerse yourself in its vivid scenery, storied towns and landscapes… and of course, stock up on the souvenirs that symbolize the country’s history, craftsmanship, and flavors.

Here’s a list of the best places in Ireland to visit to shop for ways to remember your trip to Ireland, or treat your friends and loved ones to a taste of Ireland.


Irish Whiskey in County Cork


It means ‘water of life’, and was once the most popular drink in the world. The distilled grain spirit that’s now called whiskey was developed beginning around the 12th century by creative monks. Today it’s enjoying renewed popularity, and has regained its top standing as the fastest-growing spirit in the world. 

There are dozens of distilleries dotting the cobble-stoned towns and green rolling hills of Ireland, and the list keeps growing. In nearly every county, you can tour historic stone, or ultra-modern distilleries that expand on Ireland’s breadth of whiskeys.

Visiting one or more of the country’s distilleries and tasting rooms, and packing one or more of the 80 million or so bottles produced in the country every year in your luggage (carefully!) for the trip home, is a must-do for any visitor to Ireland. 


The essential experience is in County Cork at Jamesons’. As the world’s biggest producer of Irish whiskey, and dating from the 1700’s, it defines ‘traditional’ Irish whiskey. It’s a ‘blend’ whiskey: locally-grown Irish barley, some malted and some unmalted, or ‘green’, is distilled one of two ways, then the different distilled spirits are mixed. Irish whiskey differs from most whisky from Scotland that is made from grain dried by a peat fire, giving it a smoky flavor -  not present in smoother Irish whiskey. 


Crystal in Waterford County


Nothing will make your Irish whiskey taste better than drinking it from a Waterford crystal low ball glass or decanter.
Crystal was not invented in Ireland, but 200-year old Waterford is one of the world’s most famous crystals, and a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal facility is one of the top reasons to visit the Irish county of the same name.

You can watch artisans in action in each of the steps in the creation of Waterford crystal’s pieces, seeing pieces come to life, from blowing molten crystal into elegant shapes, to mould making, to inspections, marking patterns onto approved pieces for master artisans to cut the signature designs that result in the clarity and sparkle that rival diamonds in vases, bowls, glass and stemware and of course, décor items like chandeliers.


Ireland isn’t the only place you can find this famous crystal. You’ll spot Waterford crystal some of the finest bars and restaurants and hotels in the world. And you’ll see Waterford chandeliers in Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and across the pond, in the Kennedy Center and… it’s the famous ball that drops every New Year’s Even in New York’s Times Square.
 

A Claddagh Ring in Galway


After the shamrock and the Celtic cross, this must be the most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle. It’s certainly Ireland’s essential piece of jewelry – with a delightful and touching meaning.

The Claddagh ring’s hands cradling a heart topped with a crown symbolize friendship, love and loyalty. Rings are worn in Ireland and often by people of Irish ancestry around the world as friendship, engagement and wedding rings. 

They are often passed down mothers to their eldest daughters or grandmother to granddaughter and worn differently to advertise the wearer’s current relationship status, useful in the days before you could look it up on facebook! Worn
·     On the right hand, with the heart pointing toward the heart, you’re in a relationship; your ‘heart has been captured;
·     On the right hand with the heart pointing outward, you’re single and looking;
·     On the left ring finger with the heart pointing outward, you’re engaged; and
·     With the heart pointing to your heart, you’re married.


Start your own tradition and add some extra meaning to your new Claddagh ring by making the trek to the fishing village of the same name in Galway, where Claddagh rings were invented in the 18th century. The original goldsmith’s shop still stands. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is the oldest jeweler in Ireland, and houses a museum to the iconic ring.

Irish Wool from the Aran Isles


When you picture Ireland’s famous green pastures, you may also picture those pastures with grazing sheep. Throughout Ireland, keeping sheep and spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting their wool was a cottage industry for centuries.


You can still see looms at work throughout Ireland, and enjoy the fruits of the artisans who craft colorful scarves, wraps, hats, and other useful, beautiful, and wearable examples of Irish history, creativity and skill.

Perhaps the most Irish of woolen knitwear is an Aran sweater. The Aran Islands off the country’s western coast have historically been home to hardy fishing communities whose women used wool ‘unscoured’ of its natural oils, making it water resistant and perfect for fishermen working in harsh Atlantic waters – or anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors. 

(Image: Getty)

Sweaters are marvelously complex works of art, comprising 100,000 stitches of each maker’s own design. Different patterns of stitches represent different meanings and omens for the success and safety of the fishermen wearing them .
 
Ireland’s deep culture and heritage make an unforgettable impression on any visitor to her shores, and you’ll want to take home memories and mementoes of your journey. These are just a few of the many souvenirs of Ireland that really beat a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt from your last St. Patrick’s day at the pub!

 

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All images courtesy of Ireland.com unless otherwise indicated.

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It's one of the top destinations in Europe, let alone the Mediterranean. Barcelona tops everyone's travel bucket list, and for excellent reasons.

  • It has a collection of some of the world's most unique and distinctive Modernist architecture - hint: by the same local designer whose masterpiece church is still under construction 130 years after it was begun.

  • One of Europe's most famous local markets, and restaurants serving the abundant harvest of Catalonia's land and sea.

  • One of the world's most picturesque pedestrian promenades (where you'll find the tongue-in-cheek bronze 'Thinking Bull' statue that plays on the iconic 'The Thinker' by Rodin, pictured above).

  • And a lifestyle any visitor is loathe to leave.

We never depart on a cruise from Barcelona without taking time to indulge in one of our favorite cities, and of course, any tour of Spain or the Western Mediterranean wouldn't be complete without an immersion in Barcelona's culture and way of life.

See the best of Barcelona come to life in the BestTrip video above, and...

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A visit to the Juno Beach Centre is life-changing. Walking in the footsteps of young, Canadian soldiers who landed on this stretch of beach in Normandy, France on DDay is emotional, eye-opening, and never-to-be-forgotten.

Some Canadians do more than visit. They work here. Permanent staff and young Canadians greet and guide visitors at the Centre, through the restored bunkers, and on Juno Beach itself, and work on programs that tell the story at the Juno Beach Centre of DDay from a Canadian point of view.

Many of the young guides are about the same age as the 19- and 20-year old soldiers who landed on Juno Beach in 1944 - and that's by design. It helps keep in perspective how young most of those Canadian soldiers were.

Here are some thoughts and insights of Juno Beach Centre team members about their daily presence in such an important and evocative place for Canadians.

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Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

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Why Travelers in the Know are Booking A Douro River Cruise in Portugal
Have you taken a river cruise in Europe yet? The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone. You may have heard about cruising on the Seine, even Main and Moselle cruises.

But for a little 'off the beaten track' river cruising in Europe, Portugal's Douro river is enjoying its day in the sun. Warm-weather Portugal, in the heart of the Porto wine region's, scenic villages, history and picture-perfect vineyards, is an idyllic spring, summer and fall river cruising destination.

Here's why we love river cruising on the Douro:

The Route:

 
The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. Bookended by two UNESCO World Heritage cities, a river cruise on the scenic Douro Valley passes through mainly rural landscapes with historic villages, dramatic cliffs, famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture.

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

Even early and late in the season, the weather in Portugal is warmer and drier than in other popular river cruising destinations in Northern Europe, so if basking in pleasant summer weather is how you picture a river cruise, the Douro is for you.
 

The Highlights:

 
At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Most itineraries include nearby, renowned Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus once studied, and whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows in the summer sun.
 
At the western end of the route, the port city of Porto (pictured top; image: Getty/Mirifada) is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If its famous bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, you are not crazy; its architect studied under Eiffel. It was a small world, even in the 19th century.
 
A river cruise on the Douro is even more charming passing through the undisturbed countryside between the ports at either end. The Douro is far less traveled than the major European river cruise routes. You may rarely even see other river cruise boats or guests in the small villages where you can wander in a truly local, authentic, un-hurried rhythm and un-touristy environment. 
 

The Wine:

 
The name of the city of Porto suggests its long-lasting claim to fame. This is the home of port wine as you may have guessed, and also other delectable Portuguese wines like Muscatel. It's one of the world's oldest wine producing regions, with two millennia of viticulture traditions. 
 
When it comes to port wine, a Douro river cruise brings you to the doorstep of some of the region's best places to experience a rich and storied wine that has become less commonly served. (These days, it's mostly in British costume dramas where we see men retreating to their studies and clubs for 'port and cigars').
 
You can sip your way along the Douro river with expert, hosted wine tastings in famous and out of the way wineries, including the UNESCO World Heritage Vinhateiro wine region, the scenic Varosa Valley, the beautiful vineyards of Regua that produce the best range of port wine in the country, Casa de Mateus, the castle made famous on the labels of Portugal’s renowned Mateus wine, and other viticulture treats.
 

Start your Trip!


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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

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If you close your eyes and picture 'Italy', chances are, it's the rows of vineyards and cypress trees, villas and farmhouses, fabled towns and household-name works of art of Tuscany that come to mind.


There are a million reasons why Tuscany is the setting of so many escapist novels, movies and life-changing travels. Here are our favorites:

FLORENCE

The red rooftops of Florence are the symbol of Tuscany's capital and epic Italian Renaissance magic. Wandering the alleys and cobblestoned streets, the Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio lets you drink in Firenze's one-of-a-kind atmosphere. 


But its greatest attractions are indoors. Italy's greatest collection of art is housed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. The richness of its collection is unparalleled; so many Renaissance masterpieces – recognizable even if you weren't an art history student - you'll hit Botticelli sensory overload quickly, so you'll want to break up your visit into multiple days. Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia makes visitors gasp in awe at the 17-foot marble nude – as does its replica placed in its original 1504 setting outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

SIENA

Art lovers may argue whether it's Renaissance Florence or Gothic Siena that is the most breathtaking Tuscan city for art and architecture. Luckily, you don't have to choose, immerse yourself in the cathedrals and squares and museums in both. In a part of the world teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Siena's Piazza del Campo stands out in its majesty cradled at the foot of three hills surrounding it. Work off some of that extraordinary Tuscan cuisine climbing the Torre del Mangia, a tower at the Palazzo Pubblico. Your reward is a breathtaking viewpoint over Siena.

 

THE PALIO

Time your visit to Siena right, and you can be a part of one of the world's most famous and storied sports/ cultural historic events. The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race that feels like a Gothic time capsule. The 10 horses and riders are decked out like, knights of yore, in the medieval colors representing city wards; flags hang from the balconies and buildings in the city.

It's one of the most exciting 90 seconds in sport/ pageantry. The riders cling desperately to their horses for three laps of Siena's packed Piazza del Campo, and often, a few are thrown especially at the tight turns along the way, with riderless horses running into the crowds in the middle of the square or crossing the finish line with the other horses. The Palio is run twice a summer, on July 2nd and August 16th, and the Corteo Storico, a boisterous pageant, precedes the race.  Tip: arrange your visit to Siena's Palio through a tour operator that has balcony access overlooking the Piazza for the best view above the throngs.
 

CINQUE TERRE

'Five Villages' sounds quite humble, but in Tuscany, it's magic. Clinging to the sides of the cliffs overlooking the sea, these five colorful villages are among the most recognizable images of Italy. The area is a national park and also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status that attempts to shield these seaside jewels from excessive tourism/ commercialism.  


It's an epic view from the sea, if you're lucky enough to be on a Mediterranean cruise that sails along the Ligurian coast; smaller ships especially may sail close enough. On land, hiking trails provide both a wonderful outdoor activity and spectacular views of the different villages. There is also a coastal train that stops in each town. 
 

PISA

Pisa's 12th century Leaning Tower has been touristy since there were tourists in Italy – and that's a long time. You too will join the millions of people on Instagram in a photo of yourself 'propping up' the 180-foot tower that is about 4 degrees off a perfect vertical. That doesn't sound like much, but it means the top is 13 feet off center! 

The tower began leaning during construction due to poor foundations. In recent years, hundreds of millions have been spent re-stabilizing the bell tower. Unbelievably, it is safe enough you can even climb 300 steps to the top in a medieval version of a funhouse.

VESPAS

Tuscany is the home of the original, and world's favorite scooter. The Vespa isn't just quaint, retro memorabilia. It was designed (its name means 'wasp' for the insect its shape and handlebars evoke) to lead a transportation revolution: vehicles that are inexpensive and easily parked and maneuvered in urban areas.
 
Vespas are still made at the Piaggio factory in the Tuscan city of Pontedera, not far from Pisa, which has a museum displaying the Vespa customized by Salvador Dali.  They have a cult following around the world. Renting one to tour around Tuscany may be one of the most authentic, fun, and heartwarming local experiences.

WATCH VIDEO AT THE TOP: MEETING A VESPA COLLECTOR/ RESTORER IN TUSCANY


WINE AND DINE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

As captivating are Tuscany's cities, the iconic scenery of region's rural areas are transformative. Chianti vineyards, white truffle farms, olive groves along country lanes lines with sculpted-looking cypress trees, with villas, farmhouses, and chapels integrated by the centuries into the gently rolling landscape.

To visit Tuscany is to spend time, by vespa or bicycle or on foot, in the countryside, and even better, to stay in a rural castello or villa with its own vineyard and restaurant to treat all of your senses to a taste of Tuscany.
 

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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

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They say on St. Patrick's Day everyone's a little bit Irish. So it's fair to say that on Rabbie Burns' Day, we're all a little bit Scottish. The national poet of Scotland – he wrote the song you likely sing every New Year's Eve: Auld Lang Syne – was born on January 25, 1759. And every year on January 25th, Scots and people of Scottish ancestry world-wide celebrate the man voted the 'Greatest Scot' in the country's history.

In Scotland and in many communities with Scots heritage, especially in Canada, where more than 15% of the population have ancestors from Scotland, the day is marked with Rabbie Burns Day Suppers. Gentlemen lucky enough to own a kilt suit up, bagpipers pipe in the haggis, Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' is read as the stuffed sheep's stomach is ceremonially carved and served, many toasts are made with whisky (all the better to wash down the haggis!), and it wraps up with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne.

If you're one of the millions of North Americans of Scots ancestry – or are an honorary Scot on Rabbie Burns' Day – we hope you attend a Rabbie Burns supper on January 25th in your hometown. Even better, once in your life, make the trip to join the festivities in Scotland itself. It's a bucket list trip much like being in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. You'll feel like a true Scot for the rest of your life.

Here's our salute to Robert Burns Day: BestTrip's video / love letter to the Shetland Islands, the most remote part of Scotland and northern-most point of the British Isles. (Click on the video above to watch).

The Shetland Islands are where 'Scotland meets Scandinavia and the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean'. Directly due west of Norway, the Shetland Islands are as far north as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska.

With over 4000 years of history, enchanting wild coastline and charming farms - and an estimated 1500 of its famous, local namesake breed of Shetland ponies roaming its green pastures - the Shetland islands are a time capsule of unique Scottish history, heritage and traditional lifestyle. 

(Seabourn Ovation docked next to Oslo's historic fortifications)

We sailed to the Shetland Islands on our luxury Seabourn cruise of Scandinavia and the Northern British Isles. The Shetland Islands are yet another reason we love sailing on smaller ships like Seabourn, whose itineraries include not just marquee destinations like Copenhagen, Oslo and Edinburgh, but also small ports in remote destinations - like the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Imagine a cruise port where you barely see another tourist while you experience untouched Nature and authentic local life. 

It's cruise travel as the explorer inside you dreams it will be.

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It's been featured in no less than two James Bond movies. Not to mention To Catch a Thief, the Alfred Hitchcock thriller starring Grace Kelly. Filmed on location in glitzy Monaco, it's where she met a prince and then became Princess Grace.

Monaco – and Monte Carlo – have established and maintained an allure as one of the world's most glamorous destinations. Casinos and royalty, yachts and racing. Fast cars and beautiful women. Tuxedos and champagne all hours of the day.
 
But there's more to Monaco than a real-life movie set.

BestTrip reveals 5 things you didn't know about this sexy Mediterranean destination.

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It's a global buzzword and cultural phenomenon. And today, more and more of us are in need of Denmark's signature recipe for happiness: 'hygge'.


Danish 'hygge' (pronounced 'HOOG-uh') is sweeping the world – everyone wants in on Denmark's famously convivial way of life. The Danish are the happiest people on the planet – even during the long, dark days of winter - and it's all about hygge.

So much so, hygge has actually been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. It might be the world's first UNESCO World Heritage… feeling.

But translating hygge – and living it - aren't so simple. A hug? Mindfulness? Cozy?

Hygge is often referred to in design, with tips for creating rooms with 'hygge'. It's been said the Danish buy more candles per capita than anyone else on the planet. Add snuggly wool throws. Nature-inspired materials. A crackling fire. Comfort foods. And the simple pleasures of good company and togetherness.

All things that mean more to us than ever.

BestTrip was in Copenhagen at the height of a hot summer on a pre-cruise weekend before boarding our Seabourn cruise… and with Copenhagen Urban Adventures, we discovered 'hygge' isn't just something you find indoors in winter. It happens year round, indoors and outdoors, with people, spaces and activities you love.

Hygge has caught on as a catchphrase with its appeal as an antidote to the ails of the modern world. Travel to Denmark, and you'll discover not only the scenics that stand out in Scandinavian style. Danish food and drink, obsession with cycling and life balance… a concept that's been around for a couple of hundred years has new and more powerful relevance in a busy, connected-yet-impersonal, disengaged and over-programmed world.

Hygge might be the very best souvenir from Denmark of all: once you learn how to capture hygge like we did from Mie at Copenhagen Urban Adventures, you'll be able to recreate that feeling home with you and implement its practice into your and your family's life.

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Crystal River Cruises Changing the European River Cruise Landscape with Another River 'Yacht'

Following in the symphonic footsteps of the other members of the Crystal River Cruise fleet, the new Crystal Debussy evokes traditional European culture in a tribute to the great musical composer. The river cruise experience by Crystal, on the other hand, is a whole new approach .

The Crystal Debussy is the 5th Crystal river 'yacht', joining Crystal Mozart, Crystal Bach, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel. They've been arriving on the European river cruise scene at a dizzying pace, as devotees of Crystal's particular luxury travel style on Crystal's renowned ocean cruises eagerly take the opportunity to explore the heart of European culture and famous river-bank wine regions in ultra-luxury Crystal style.

Crystal's approach to luxury ocean cruising translates to its river cruise experience that will make regular Crystal guests feel right at home and will take the breath away from travelers who may have tried a different river cruise experience. Crystal is making the distinction between river cruising and the Crystal experience by calling its fleet: River Yachts.

Guests on the Crystal Debussy will find one- and two-bedroom suites with Crystal's signature Panoramic Balcony-Window in an all-suite ship, exceptional public spaces including multiple dining options, top-deck outdoor lounge space… all with 6-star design-hotel style and Crystal's service of anticipation with European butler service and more staff than any other European river cruise. Michelin-inspired farm-to-table dining with complimentary fine wines, spirits, gratuities and unlimited wi-fi… it takes Crystal's 'private yacht'-feel on its ocean cruises to the rivers of Europe and transforms the concept of luxury in river cruising.

On shore, guests will be able to choose fleet-wide from over 200 curated, often exclusive destination experiences and activities. They range from cultural, natural, culinary/gastronomic, 'personal connections' to local lifestyles, and active 'exhilarating adventures'. Most are complimentary, and an included Signature Event each cruise brings guests rare access to famous European venues and live performances by world-class musicians in a nod to the fleet's musical nomenclature. Guests have access to 'Our Design, Your Time' concierge service to create truly customized shore experiences too.  

For experienced European river cruise and luxury travelers, this is another level and a new approach to river cruising.

The Crystal Debussy sails Rhine river itineraries between the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The Rhine is famous for a magical stretch of dozens of castles perched on banks, islands and craggy cliffs along the Rhine, the fabled rock of Lorelei, and of course, the Moselle wine region.

This latest Crystal river cruise ship joins the Crystal Bach already sailing Rhine itineraries.

Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel sail Rhine, Main, and Danube sailings – grand voyages between Amsterdam and Budapest through the heart of Europe, connecting capital cities, scenic countryside, and charming villages in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. 

Another sister ship, the Crystal Mozart, plies the majestic Danube through Central Europe, including the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Wachau valley with its picturesque architecture and signature wine, the Bavarian countryside, and the famous culture capitals Vienna and Budapest.

The growing fleet of Crystal river cruise ships is changing the landscape of European river cruising and provides travelers who appreciate the finest luxury experience in their European land travels the means to explore even quaint corners of European countryside via the great rivers of Europe in the same quality of experience they expect in landmark luxury hotels on land.


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Top 3 Souvenirs from Venice

Venice is not just the 'City of Canals'.  It's also always been a city of merchants, and modern Venice is a showcase for iconic Italian craftsmanship and uniquely Venetian works. 

You'll find the cheap and touristy items right alongside more expensive items that reflect traditional craftsmanship.   The Frezzeria not only leads to St. Mark's Square, it's also the city's busiest shopping street.  You'll find boutiques as well as souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones.

So leave room in your suitcase for our top shopping finds in Venice.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, producer/ host, BestTrip.TV

1. Murano Glass

Less than a mile from the main city, the Venetian island of Murano for centuries has been famous for glassware.   It was a European pioneer and leader in the miraculous art of glassmaking, and Murano glass is an essential Venice souvenir. 

Although you can buy Murano glass throughout Venice, take the time to visit the island, packed with factories and some artists' studios, some of which are open to visitors to see how it's made.  You'll find some more unique pieces that appear less 'mass-market' off the beaten track.

You'll have plenty of different expressions of the glassblower's art to choose from. Among the most recognized 'Murano' glass is multi-colored, especially in bright primary colors (millefiori) and glass beads that are often made into jewelry, or even rosaries for the devout in your life. 

After you've stocked up on beads and items made from beads, it gets less easy to pack.  Glassware, vases, figurines or contemporary glass sculpture, even chandeliers, require more planning, or even better, the studio or shop to arrange shipping for you.  But I guarantee that a nice Italian prosecco sipped from a Murano wine glass at home has a taste of your travels that makes the effort all worthwhile.

Tip:  Don't miss Paropamiso on the Frezzeria.  The owner collects glass 'Venetian pearls' and also travels around the world collecting items to bring back to Venice to his shop, where he also practices the Venetian craft of threading them into jewelry. 

2. Masks

Venice may be the world's spiritual home of Carnival, a celebration of decadence in the time leading up to the fasting and somberness of the pre-Easter season.  An elaborate mask and historic costume stands in our visual memories as code for 'Venice'.  And one of the most important events of the Venice Carnival is the contest for the most beautiful mask.

Masks have become the symbol of Carnival and of Venice itself. They have been a large part of the city's culture even back to the 12th century, when historians believe being wearing masks in the streets permitted Venetians some freedom from the city's rigid class divisions. 

You may not be in Venice for Carnival, or invited to one of its masked balls. But every visitor to Venice can participate in Venice's love affair with masks.  They are everywhere and made from leather, porcelain and even – as is tradition – from Venetian glass.  You'll find masks from the cheap and cheerful for the kids or your next Hallowe'en costume, to works of art you'll want to display.

Tip: Look especially for cat masks. Venice's colonies of cats are storied, and you'll see a number of cat-themed souvenirs in Venice, including portraits of cats in Carnival costumes.

3. Fine Fashion

We're not just talking about the household name Italian luxury fashion houses. Luckily when you're in Venice, you don't have to be a member of the 1% to participate in Italy's renowned sense of style and way with traditional fine fabrics and leather.   

Top picks as souvenirs of this Italian specialty: gloves and ties, belts and scarves. Why? They are easily packable, completely practical, and utterly beautiful.  A silk tie or a pair of fine leather gloves from Venice may be the perfect gift for anyone on your shopping list from hipsters to grannies… and of course, yourself.

Tip: For ties and scarves, look no farther than Trevisan on St. Mark's (San Marco) square. Displays resemble a silk rainbow with dizzying subtleties – this blue, or this blue or this blue? you will ask yourself.   In spite of its proximity to the tourist center of Venice, prices are remarkably sensible, so you may not have to pick between your favorites.  The store also sells other accessories for men and women.

Sermoneta is like a candy store of gloves, with over 5 dozen colors for any occasion: driving gloves, winter, fur-trimmed gloves, elbow length evening gloves, in various types of leathers.  They say it takes 10 artisans nearly 30 steps to make each pair and yet they are still reasonable enough to gift yourself and your favorite stylish loved ones.

A pair of sky blue or tangerine orange kid gloves will brighten dreary winter days for any woman (or confidently stylish man).  Add a silk tie from Venice to a gentleman's suit and it will instantly up his fashion game in an indefinable but noticeable way. Plus earn the wearer compliments and questions about where such a glove or tie of beauty was discovered.

Ah, Venice. More and more Mediterranean cruises embark, disembark, or have overnight calls in the City of Water, and group, small-group, or private tours give you the opportunity to experience one of the world's most extraordinary cities.  Let us help you find the perfect way for you to travel to Venice.

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They call it 'The Garden of Europe', and it's open for only 8 short weeks every spring. The spectacular Keukenhof garden in the Netherlands is said to be the largest spring flower garden in the world – and it's the highlight of our Avalon Tulip Time river cruise.

BestTrip.TV filmed this once-a-year explosion of color of blooming tulips, surrounded by some of the famous Dutch tulip fields.  We were there and even we thought it was too incredible to be real!

Garden Travel expert Tara Nolan of SavvyGardening.com shares her insights into what makes the Keukenhof a can't-miss celebration of spring, best experienced from our Avalon Tulip Time river cruise.

And if you think the Keukenhof garden experience on a Tulip-Time cruise is just for girlfriend getaways, think again.  The gardens are a living, technicolor business card for the Netherlands' floriculture industry - the biggest in the world.  So think of it instead as one of the most stunning 'factory tours' you could ever hope to take. And bring along the guys, not just the girls.  They will be just as awed as we were!

Thinking of taking a Tulip Time cruise? Here are 8 amazing facts about flowers in Holland, home of the world's largest floriculture industry:

  • Nearly half of the world's floriculture products come from the Netherlands.
  • 77% of all flower bulbs exported around the world are Dutch, and the majority are tulips.
  • Tulips are the national flower of the Netherlands, but they originally came from Turkey; then were bred and cultivated by the Dutch into the spectacular showy flower we know today.
  • The appealing stripes on some of the most sought-after varieties of tulips are the result of a virus!
  • The total land used for the production of flower bulbs in the Netherlands is over 2.5 million acres!  The Bollenstreek (Bulb Region) is more or less between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.  The Keukenhof garden is in this area, surrounded by tulip and other flower fields.
  • You can rent a bicycle during your visit to Keukenhof to explore the fields surrounding it, and if you have time, you can even follow all or part of the 37 km-long, sign-posted 'Leidse Bollenroute'. (You'll love cycling in Holland; all the land is flat!)
  • Holland also exports fresh-cut plants and flowers: 2/3 of the world's total.
  • Amsterdam is home to the world's only floating flower market; over a dozen shops operate year-round from one of the city's famous canals.
Like we did, you can experience the Keukenhoff garden, take in some of the surrounding flower fields, and visit Amsterdam's Floating Flower Market all during an Avalon Tulip Time River cruise that delivers you to the front of the line at the Keukenhof, and overnights in Amsterdam so you can go to the flower market.
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