Best of Portugal for April/May 2018

Join Al & Judi Kruzins for our trip to Portugal in April 2018.   See the map below for our itinerary our itinerary.  There is a link at the bottom of this article with the details.

ABOUT THIS TRIP

Let the melancholic trill of the Fado Guitar follow you from Portugal’s Manueline Lisbon to Baroque Oporto and the sun-soaked beaches of Vilamoura. Wander through the medieval cities of Obidos, Évora and Guimarães, and visit the religious landmarks of Fatima, Batalha and the dramatic Hieronymite Monastery, enjoying a delicious pasteis de nata or two along the way.

So far we have 22 people joining us.  Feel free to call us for more details.  We do have fun with our group travel.

Following the tour of Portugal we will be flying to Madrid and most of us will be attending the Madrid Open Tennis tournament.  We will be flying back to Toronto from Madrid after a 4-night stay there.  Al & I have been to Madrid before and there is lots to see.

https://www.trafalgar.com/can/tours/best-of-portugal

 

EUROPEAN ADVENTURES – ITINERARY BY TRAFALGAR TOURS – Join us following this coach trip for a day at the French Open Tennis Tournament on May 22/16.

See Map that was posted in January 2015.

Departing Canada May 5:   Join Al & Judi Kruzins to view castles of the Rhine Valley, and see the impressive Prague Castle. Travel the canals of Venice and see beautiful Lake Lucerne before exploring magical Paris.

Day 1: DEPART HOME
Overnight flight to London.
DAY 2: ARRIVE LONDON (2 NIGHTS)
Relax after check -in or take a leisurely stroll through this fascinating city.
DAY 3: LONDON FREE TIME
The day is yours to explore the delights of London! See the sights, visit a museum or go shopping – the list is endless and the choice is yours!
DAY 4: LONDON – AMSTERDAM (2 NIGHTS)
Greetings from your Travel Director and Welcome to Europe! Drive through Kent’s scenic countryside to Dover. Admire the famous White Cliffs as you sail across the Channel to Calais, France. Continue by road through Belgium to The Netherlands, home of clogs and windmills! Perhaps take a canal cruise in a glass-topped boat and see the city from a unique perspective!
DAY 5: AMSTERDAM ORIENTATION AND FREE TIME
This morning in Amsterdam, enjoy an orientation of the historic city centre. Afterwards you will have free time to take in one of the fantastic museums that the city has to offer.
DAY 6: AMSTERDAM – COLOGNE – RHINELAND
Drive into Germany and marvel at Cologne Cathedral. At Boppard, embark on a relaxing cruise along the River Rhine past medieval hilltop castles and steep vineyards. Continue to your hotel where you dine this evening.
DAY 7: RHINELAND – NUREMBERG – PRAGUE (2 NIGHTS)
Stop in Nuremberg this morning, a historic city where little has changed since the Middle Ages! Drive east across the border into the Czech Republic, and arrive later in the capital, Prague.
DAY 8: PRAGUE SIGHTSEEING AND FREE TIME
Your Local Specialist brings the history of this fascinating city to life during your sightseeing tour, which includes Prague Castle – the largest medieval castle complex in Europe – the Cathedral of St. Vitus, views of Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square.
DAY 9: PRAGUE – REGENSBURG – MUNICH
Cross back into Germany, stopping in Regensburg on the River Danube. In Munich, capital of Bavaria, your orientation includes the Olympic Stadium, Ludwigstrasse and the Marienplatz, renowned for its musical Glockenspiel. You might like to visit a bierkeller and sample the local beer, for which the city is famous.
DAY 10: MUNICH – INNSBRUCK – VENICE (2 NIGHTS)
Head south towards the mountains and enjoy an amazing drive through Austria. Stop at Innsbruck, a popular ski area, to view the Golden Roof and the Hofburg. Continue across the Brenner Pass, one of the principal Alpine highways, into Italy and south to Venice, Queen of the Adriatic. Tonight dine in your hotel.
DAY 11: VENICE ORIENTATION AND FREE TIME
Evidence of Venice’s glorious Byzantine history is all around as you cruise by private launch through the city’s canals to St. Mark’s Square. Admire the magnificent Doge’s Palace, former home of Venice’s ruling elite. Watch the Venetian craftsmen at work creating local specialities at a glassblowing workshop on Giudecca Island. Afterwards, you have time to explore amazing narrow alleyways and historic bridges and canals. Later, perhaps take the opportunity to cruise to Burano Island, the most picturesque island in the lagoon, for a delicious meal.
DAY 12: VENICE – LAKE LUCERNE (2 NIGHTS)
Traverse the plains of northern Italy and cross the border into Switzerland. Continue along the St. Gotthard route, with spectacular views of waterfalls and mountain peaks. See the chalets dotting the steep hillsides as you approach Lake Lucerne in the heart of central Switzerland. Dine tonight at your hotel.
DAY 13: LAKE LUCERNE ORIENTATION AND FREE TIME
Your orientation tour of Lucerne includes the medieval wooden Chapel Bridge and the poignant Lion Monument, built to commemorate the Swiss Guards who bravely defended Louis XVl during the French Revolution. There is time afterwards to shop for delicious chocolates and watches, relax or stroll beside the lake. Consider an optional trip up a mountain peak by cable car to admire the magnificent views! Later, you might like to join in the fun at a Swiss Folklore Show.
DAY 14: LAKE LUCERNE – PARIS (2 NIGHTS)
Travel north-west through Basel into France, skirting the edge of the Vosges Mountains. Admire charming villages and castles as you pass through the vineyards of Burgundy, France’s most famous wine region. Arrive later in the glittering capital, Paris! This evening perhaps take a tour through this dazzling city to see the magnificent illuminations.
DAY 15: PARIS SIGHTSEEING AND FREE TIMEParis probably has more recognisable landmarks than any other city in the world. Your Local Specialist shows you all the major sights during your sightseeing tour, including the Champs Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. The rest of the day is yours to explore. Consider a Seine cruise as an optional experience. This evening, you might like to celebrate the end of your holiday with a famous Parisian cabaret show!
DAY 16: PARIS – JOIN US FOR THE FRENCH OPEN
OR, RETURN HOME.

All-in-One: London, Amsterdam, Prague, Munich, Venice, Lake Lucerne & Paris

Cruise along the Rhine Valley with its beautiful landscape before enjoying a walking tour of Prague where you view the impressive castle. View castles of the Rhine Valley and see the impressive Prague Castle. Travel the canals of Venice and see beautiful Lake Lucerne before exploring magical Paris.

Full itinerary details coming soon! Join us on this amazing Trafalgar Coach Tour in May 2016. Send me a note if you would like to attend an information night.

Why Visit Venice?

Of all the cities that I’ve ever been in I must say that Venice is my favourite.  It is like no other city that exists and to me it feels like being on a movie set.  Last time we were there we rode a waterbus (vaporetti) around the whole 1- hour route three times.  It gave us a great opportunity to observe people as they got on & off the bus and as we motored around the loop I sat in amazement looking at the buildings as we passed by.

Venice dates back to 421 and is constructed on woodpiles.  As wood does not decay under water these woodpiles have become like stone and most are still intact after centuries.  The foundations rest on the piles and the buildings above these footings.  Flooding occurs frequently from the Adriatic tides usually in the winter time.  Many of the buildings have lost the use of their ground floors due to water damage and you can see where the water has risen above the doorsteps.   We were there in the fall once and had to leave St. Mark’s Square early due to the water which was rising up over the steps of the Cathedral.  Dreadful to witness this.

Only about 60,000 people live in the historic city of Venice but 270,000 reside in the City of Venice.   When we were there we met an American who had moved to Venice 7 years earlier and she loved it.  Guess she must be fluent in Italian.

The most well-known area of Venice is Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square.  Here there are many pigeons and they encourage the tourists to feed them!  There are many little restaurants in the square and most offer entertainment.  It is quite an experience to sit in St. Mark’s Square sipping a Bellini (sparking wine & peach puree) listening to some romantic music.

Another great thing to do in Venice is to climb to the top of the Campanile, the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica located in the square (piazza).  What a view from up there!  Venice is sometimes called the City of Bridges as there are over 400 bridges.  These join up the 177 canals.  You can walk for miles within the city on the narrow streets and passages, however, no cars can manage it. The most famous is the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal.  There are several shops on the bridge for buying gold and other jewelery.   The Rialto Bridge is in one of my pictures.

There is a train station on the edge of town called the St. Lucia Station.  Good place to stay near as you can eat at a reasonable price in the station and still walk to St. Mark’s Square without spending an arm & a leg for the hotel.  The train station is near a vaporetti stop.  The waterbuses or vaporetti is the recommended way to get from one place to another if it’s a bit too far to walk.  There are also water taxis available. These are fast but quite expensive.

Venice is also referred to as the City of Masks.  The Carnival of Venice takes place every year two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday.  The next time will be March 9, 2011.  Many shops in the area sell masks in beautiful colours and designs.

For the shoppers it’s a must to buy a piece of Murano Glass.  Al & I brought back two wine goblets and they are a delight to drink from as the glass is so smooth.  I also chose some glass earrings made by a Murano glass specialist.  If you visit the Belagio Casino in Las Vegas you will see the most exquisite ceiling display of glass flowers!  These are all hand-blown! Truly a work of art!  I love glass art as every piece is unique.

For the romantic, a ride in a gondola is in order.  You may even be serenaded.  The gondola is the most well recognized mode of transportation in Venice and some even have seats of velvet. When you do get to visit Venice I hope you experience the “wow” that I did.  I love it!!

I didn’t mention the pizza – guess you have to go taste that for yourself!  Enjoy!

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Why visit Rome?

[flagallery gid=6 name=”Rome”]You may ask, “Why visit Rome”? I will write a bit about what I gained from my visits to Rome and how it could benefit you too.  Growing up in Canada I had no idea of what “old” meant. Discovering Europe was truly an awesome experience. The age of buildings and streets is what really hit me when I first visited and keeps me in amazement every time I return. Rome is one of my favourite cities and is a mix of modern with ancient. According to legend Rome was founded by Romulus, first of the seven kings in 753 BC. I like to imagine what it would have been like to live in Ancient Roman times. Perhaps I would have attended games held at the Coliseum although the thought of that gives me the creeps as there were thousands of slaves and animals killed there. They were kept in a maze under the floor and brought out to fight and entertain the public. Where you sat would depend on your ranking in the society. Today, part of the floor has been recreated to give an idea of what it looked like at that time. Some of the original steps can be seen rising up the sides of the stadium.

The Roman Forum can be viewed and visited in the same area as the Coliseum. Many of the original pillars of marble still stand today. The most famous of these is the three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux built in 499 BC. It is more than a walk down memory lane to actually wander through this area. You come to appreciate the life we lead here in Canada and in these modern times. Rome offers so many sites for tourists to see during their stay. I recommend staying at least 3 days to cover most of the popular spots. A favourite of mine is the Trevi Fountain. This is Rome’s grandest fountain where you can see Neptune flanked by two Tritons. It is relatively new, being built in 1762, in comparison with most of Rome’s attractions. While you are there, toss a coin over your shoulder to ensure that you return. We stayed 3 nights in a hotel around the corner from the Trevi Fountain and from this location could walk everywhere.

There is no need to rent a car in Rome if you have comfortable walking shoes. Also close by was the Pantheon. This is truly a work of art with the walls supporting the dome being 19 ft. thick. It is an eye-opener as you walk through the narrow streets of the city, turn a corner and find the Pantheon in front of you. This is the resting place of the artist, Raphael and also several of the Italian kings. There are numerous museums and galleries for those who are history buffs. You might prefer to study up on the historic buildings, streets or piazzas. As for me I don’t like to study history but I prefer to experience it and be filled with amazement. Before we left the city I coaxed my husband into one of the very modern, classy stores we passed. I discovered that Swarovski made a crystal heart. I now refer to this as my “Roman” heart. All this and I haven’t yet mentioned the Vatican.

On my first visit of 3 days I did not visit the Sistine Chapel but only St. Peter’s Basilica. This spring we returned by train and viewed the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. It is a site not to be missed no matter what faith you practice. The ceiling was restored in the 1980’s showing a lot of vibrant colours. It will instill in you an appreciation of art if you don’t have one already. You could never see and do everything in a short time so what I suggest is to reveille in what you can see and enjoy! It is just as amazing and enjoyable no matter how many times you return and in fact we returned for our third visit in September, 2008.  On this past trip we took 14 others with us and followed our visit with a  Mediterranean cruise which stopped at some Greek Isles, Athens, Naples, Turkey and also Alexandria, Egypt.  That is another whole story which will follow soon.