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Europe

Summer In Europe: 5 Places To Add To Your Trip

Europe comes alive in the summer. There’s an energy and vibrancy that radiates through much of the continent when the sun reappears after a long winter. Whether you’re looking for that ultimate beach holiday or just to soak up the summery atmosphere of your favorite cities, it’s a great time to board a train with your rail pass and head off to make brand new memories. Here are 5 places for an unforgettable summer in Europe.

Summer in Europe

1. Porto, Portugal

Porto’s moderate climate makes it possible to have an enjoyable visit year-round. But when the temperatures rise between May and September, the city really comes to life. Summer rain is possible but unlikely, the heat is pleasant but bearable, and when it gets a little too hot there’s a wide selection of unpretentious beaches to choose from where you can cool off. There are also several events that take place throughout the warmer months that pull crowds from across the continent.

Porto Portugal | Summer in Eiurope

How to get there: There are regular regional trains to Porto from most local destinations, including a direct train from Lisbon. There are also daily trains from Madrid.

Must-see: Porto once again plays host to NOS Primavera Sound festival in 2016, featuring top local and international acts.

Insider tip: Summer is the most popular time of the year in Porto. Book ahead and avoid the main tourist areas for accommodation if you’re budget conscious.

Porto beach Portugal | Summer in Europe

2. Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden will bring a new perspective to your summer in Europe. Sub-zero temperatures and alarmingly short days dominate much of the Swedish year. So it’s totally understandable that the Swedes enthusiastically come out to play when the sun does. This translates into a vibrant, energetic atmosphere that will follow you around throughout your stay. June, July, and August are packed full of festivals and popular events.

Stockholm Sweden | Summer in Europe

How to get there: Sweden has an extensive rail network, and Stockholm is accessible from most major cities. Your Eurail Pass is valid with trains on the State Railways (SJ) and with several private operators.

Must-see: Visit the popular Mälarpaviljongen bar – it’s only open for the summer.

Insider tip: If you’re looking for true refreshment, go swimming at Hellasgården.

Stockholm harbor Sweden | Summer in Europe

 3. Dugi Otok, Croatia

Croatia’s coastline brims with tourists during summer, and for good reason – the sublime weather, beautiful beaches, and characterful cities are best enjoyed with ample sunshine. But when the busloads of tourists start to overwhelm, hop aboard a ferry for a more tranquil Croatian experience. There are several islands to choose from along the Dalmatian Coast, but the untouched Dugi Otok is starting to win fans in search of accessible solitude.

Dugi Otok, Dalmatia Croatia | Summer in Europe

How to get there: There are daily trains to Zadar from Zagreb that connect in Knin. From Zadar, there are three daily ferries to Dugi Otok that take approximately 90 minutes.

Must-see: Saharun Beach, on the island’s northern-most tip, is one of the most spectacular and unspoiled in all of Croatia.

Insider tip: Visit the Veli Rate lighthouse for the best views – ask nicely, and the lighthouse keeper may let you climb the 200 odd stairs the top.

Saharun Beach, Dugi Otok Croatia | Summer in Europe

4. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

The Alps are famous for dramatic winterscapes and pristine skiing conditions, but the summer months present an altogether different side. Rivers increase in pace as the high-altitude snow begins to melt, deep green fields sprout up at the foot of sheer cliffs, and the clattering of cowbells fill the air. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the peaceful yet accessible valley of Lauterbrunnen.

Here you’ll find beautiful hikes towards the snowcapped peaks that leave from the valley floor and enthusiastic base jumpers that leap from the cliffs above. For the tamer adventurers, there are tranquil walks along the valley floor dotted with icy waterfalls and rickety bridges.

Lauterbrunnen Switzerland | Summer in Europe

How to get there: Frequent trains run to nearby Interlaken from across Switzerland. Take the train to Interlaken Ost, and connect to the narrow gauge lines leading up into the valley.

Must-see: A hike up to the nearly 10,000-foot high Schilthorn is a truly memorable experience. If you’re not up for the epic trek you can opt for the somewhat pricey gondola that will whisk you to the stunning views without the effort.

Insider tip: Combine a trip to Lauterbrunnen with a ride on the Golden Pass Express – it’s one of the most scenic rides in Europe, passes through nearby Interlaken, and is included in your Eurail Global Pass.

Lauterbrunnen Switzerland | Summer in Europe

5. Capri, Italy

Capri is one of the most beautiful – and popular – islands in Europe. For this reason it can get a little bit chaotic over summer. But this is for good reason. The charming island, just a short ferry ride from the Italian mainland, is home to several pristine beaches, emerald blue waters, and some of the most epic sunsets you can imagine. While prices may escalate over the peak months, most of the island’s top attractions – the beaches, walks, and stunning views – won’t cost you a cent.

Summer in Europe | Capri Italy

How to get there: Regular trains run to Naples and Sorrento from both the north and south of Italy. From there, high-speed ferries cross to the island and back several times a day.

Must-see: Take a walk to Via Krupp – a dramatic series of switchback paths that descend an impossible cliff to the beaches below. First prize is a gentle walk down the path. But even if it’s closed, the views from above are almost as rewarding.

Insider tip: There are several ferries that cross from the mainland each day, most of which take the same amount of time but cost different prices. Research the best prices and departure times before you get to the port.

Via Krupp Capri, Italy | Summer in Europe

Bonus tips for summer in Europe

Train reservations
  • Summer in Europe is peak season, so it’s important to book early and plan ahead.
  • Make sure you reserve seats on trains that require Eurail Pass holders make reservations.
Accommodation
  • Prices escalate during this time of year, so look for accommodation options just outside the main tourist centers.
  • Staying a short walk or bus ride away from the action can save you hundreds of euros in accommodation costs.
Packing
  • Pack smartly and avoid carrying excess luggage – it’s easier to pack light in summer, and you’ll thank yourself when you’re trekking through a sweltering city with only a small backpack.
  • Don’t forget to include the usual summer essentials of sunscreen, hats, and water bottles.
  • If you’re heading to the beach, a lightweight sarong can double as a towel and blanket.

Train track in Stockholm Sweden | Summer in Europe

While summer in Europe may require a bit of planning, it can also be the most vibrant and exciting time to be there. Bars and restaurants overflow onto the streets, people walk with an extra spring in their step, and beaches buzz with enthusiastic sun-seekers. All of this translates into a truly memorable European summer rail holiday. See it all with a Eurail Global Pass.


You might also like:
The 5 biggest European music festivals this summer [VIDEOS]
Sand and surf with Eurail: Best beaches in Europe by train
Top 10 adventurous must-dos on your Eurail trip

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Europe

We Are Family | Grand European Travel

Dear Traveler and Treasured Guest,

Wherever you are, I hope you
and your family are safe and in good health. This May is certainly
different from ones we have known in the past, but one thing that remains the
same is that numerous countries around the world will be celebrating Mother’s
Day this month. Especially significant this year is the United Nations International
Day of Families on Friday, May 15.

For this reason, we decided
to dedicate this post to the importance of family, as we navigate this
perilous time in our world. Just as our families can be the source of our
greatest joy during good times, so too do they provide strength and comfort through
challenging times. As Alex Haley, author of Roots, wrote so beautifully,
“In every conceivable manner, our family is a link to our past, a bridge to our
future.”

These days, I find his words
ring partially true. As I follow the news and reflect on my own family, I
find myself filled with gratitude for each day they are in good health and good
spirits.

For me, the idea of “family” goes well beyond my immediate relations, as the word signifies so much more here at The Travel Corporation. While we are a fourth-generation family-owned and run business, TTC is composed of many layers of families within families, one biological and so many others that have come together – and therein lies my story.

Solomon Tollman

As you may know, TTC was founded 100 years ago this year by Solomon Tollman, who was my grandfather. You may have heard his story, of escaping from Lithuania and going on to open a small hotel on South Africa’s west coast, as recounted in January’s blog by my brother, Brett Tollman, who serves as CEO of TTC. Likewise, in February, you may have read a Valentine’s Day story from my father, Stanley Tollman, who spent his early years in that hotel. A Tale of Love and Oysters told of the night he fell in love with my mother and the vision the two of them shared, which has since grown into The Travel Corporation we know today, over which he serves as Chairman. For International Women’s Day in March, my mother, Bea Tollman, wrote The Secret Ingredient, telling of the crucial role that women always have – and always will – play in the success of TTC. This year, I was honored to serve as TTC’s storyteller through monthly videos celebrating TTC’s first century.

While the Tollman family is very much at the heart and soul of TTC, we are also a family of 42 of the most beloved travel brands in the world. Each is a family, with more families within each brand, all weaving these values into the amazing travel experiences they offer. Many Tollman family members work throughout these brands including, of course, my brother Brett, who has a personal interest in everything that happens at TTC. I work with my cousins as well, including Michael, CEO of Cullinan Holdings in South Africa, and Gavin, based in Switzerland, the inspiring force who heads up Trafalgar, as well as Costsaver and Brendan Vacations.

While I am very much part of the entire TTC family, my greatest joy today is working in London for Red Carnation Hotels alongside my mother, who is both our founder and President. I feel privileged to work with many of our wonderful people, including the executive, operations, marketing, sales, and public relations teams. I also work alongside my sister, Toni, a brilliant designer who oversees all our projects. It is her vision, combined with my mother’s, that has created and shaped the look and feel of each and every room of Red Carnation’s beautiful boutique hotels, as well as Uniworld Boutique River Cruises fleet of ships.

If you have ever stayed in a Red Carnation hotel or cruised on any Uniworld ship, I hope you felt welcomed as part of that family. We take great pride in making our guests feel truly cared for, important, and looked after because these are the values we hold dear. We are moved by an endless desire to welcome, helping travelers such as yourself to feel at home. This happens through tiny, noticeable touches that shape every aspect of service to our guests. More than anything, we are driven by the kind of passion one can only find in a family business, leading to obsessive attention to detail. While not the easiest way to run a business, it is who we are.

My three, beautiful daughters

Passion, hard work,
integrity, warmth, and care – these are qualities I have inherited from my
parents and grandparents, which I see in my three beautiful daughters as
well. They are strands we weave throughout our family tapestry and into
every aspect of TTC.

My mother is the true Mother
of Red Carnation. She is our daily inspiration, revered throughout all our
properties, caring deeply for all our team members. She loves them equally as
she does her own children and, luckily, my mother’s heart is plenty big enough
for all. Every year she personally chooses over 2,500 Christmas gifts for the
RCH family and another 1,500 for the Uniworld family. It is quite a daunting task,
but one she does with love and care. I have the pleasure of accompanying my
mother to each hotel where we hand out the thoughtfully chosen gift to every
member of that hotel’s team, then celebrate with champagne and our signature
high tea for all to enjoy.

My mother, Bea Tollman, teaching Uniworld chefs her secrets

We also host the Staff Appreciation Party in March of each year, where we invite and fly in from all over the world over 1,000 members of our RCH family and host them for a week. It ends with a magnificent black-tie evening at the Grosvenor House hotel in London, where we recognize and award our shining stars and teams in the collection and thank them for all they do to make Red Carnation hotels one of the most loved and cherished hotel companies in the world.

Sadly, this is the first year
we were unable to host this event. The past months have greatly affected all our
lives, and it’s been an especially difficult period for those of us in travel
and hospitality. Being in the midst of a global pandemic, all our hotels are
closed. So far, we’ve looked after many of our team and hope to be able to
throughout this crisis. Luckily, each hotel is maintained by a small but
dedicated skeleton team, working together at safe distances to ensure that
our beautiful properties remain safe and cared for. 

For many years, my mother has begun each day by reading a daily report from every hotel, which includes details that make up the running of that property and includes guest comments, likes, and dislikes. This is my mother’s true passion, caring for and worrying about her teams and guests, and taking the time to respond to every single guest comment. Right now, she misses this each day and awaits the time when we can open our doors again and get back to do doing what we do best, running our boutique hotels and serving our guests with care and love. In the meantime, she does stay in close touch with every manager and chef, calling them regularly to see that they are well and to check on their families and teams too. 

Red Carnation Team

Like so many other companies,
we are now conducting ongoing virtual meetings on Teams and Zoom.
I am most grateful to have this technology because it allows us to remain close
with everyone staying connected, so still feeling they are part of their
hotel’s family. I also ensure that I visit every hotel in London if possible
once a week, along with our inspirational Managing Director Jonathan Raggett,
respectfully following the government guidelines as we spend time with and show
support to those skeleton crews. 

While it is a big adjustment
to see normally full hotels now empty, I have also seen something beautiful and
touching shining in each Red Carnation hotel. These skeleton crews have
become families of their own, and apply the same dedication, care, and energy.
Their desire to serve their hotel’s community has also driven deeper
relationships and supporting others recently with those who live in the
neighborhood. From the Hotel d’ Angleterre in Geneva, I hear of a maid sewing hundreds of masks,
and a former fire-fighter serving on the volunteer brigade. From the Duke of Richmond Hotel in Guernsey, I hear of the staff providing
meals to local neighbors in their 90’s who have no family support and volunteer
to deliver produce around the island. And here in London, at The Egerton House, I hear of the staff walking the dogs of
elderly neighbors who feel unsafe leaving their home. These are but a few
examples I receive from our hotels, with more coming in each day.

In addition to these local efforts, we have also begun a system-wide initiative to recognize essential service workers in each community. Overseen by Jonathan Raggett and myself, we have begun to offer hotel vouchers to essential service workers for experiences at each property, including hotel stays, high teas, lunches, or dinners. Each hotel’s management will choose the organizations that matter most to them, and to identify those heroes whose work might otherwise be overlooked. Each hotel team looks forward to welcoming them to their family.  

As we continue to serve our
surrounding communities, we are also at work developing new protocols and
systems to meet needed new standards of hygiene at our hotels, to ensure the wellbeing
of our guests and staff.  Of course, maintaining excellent hygiene has
always been our practice, but we will now take that to the next level. For a
business that has always prided itself on being “high-touch,” this is no small
challenge. How will we deliver those tiny, noticeable touches in ways that
let us properly show how much we care? I have no doubt that
each General Manager and his or her team will continue to do it creatively,
sustainably, and with style – it is what we do for family.

As I close, I would like to
share a thought from my father, who will be turning 90 this year and has lived
a life so rich in wisdom and experience. Just as our hotel families have come
to see my mother as their own, so they see my father as well, turning to him
for sage advice during this trying time. When they do, he says the same
words to them that he said to me and my siblings during difficult times when we
were growing up, and still says to this day. They are the very same words his
father, Solomon Tollman, said to him, which he, in turn, took from his
namesake, King Solomon: This, too, shall pass.

Indeed, it shall. And when it
does, our families and I will be here to welcome you with the same generous
hospitality and caring service.

From our family to yours…

Until then, I send you and
your families our best and warmest wishes, with special greetings and gratitude
for mothers. While we may be unable to gather physically together this year,
may the love we share bring us together in the spirit of family.

Vicki Tollman

Director of Red Carnation
Hotels

Categories
Europe

Day Hikes In Europe | 5 Incredible Places

Europe is about more than beautiful cities and fascinating history. It also has some of the best hiking territory in the world. Exhilarating cliffs, stirring views and constantly shifting landscapes make for incredible walks for novice and experienced trekkers alike. Most are also easily accessible from nearby towns, and with a rail pass in hand you’ll be able to get close to the trailhead and out into the wilderness with only a small amount of planning. Here are five of the best towns for scenic day hikes in Europe.

Day hikes in Europe

1. Zillertal, Austria

Austria is one of the best countries for scenic long and day hikes in Europe. There are several beautiful small towns nestled in the mountains that are easily accessible by train. Zillertal is one of them – it’s painfully scenic and lends its name to the Zillertal Alps which surround it. There are 1,400 kilometers of trails catering for all skill levels, and the mountains and snow-fed rivers make for beautiful scenic walks and hikes.

Hiking path in Zillertal Austria | Day hikes in Europe

One hike to try: Challenge yourself with a near 2000-meter elevation hike to Hippach. It will take you along beautiful views of the Zillertal Alps, then past mountain huts, B&Bs, and traditional Austrian dwellings.

More info: www.zillertal.at

How to get there by train: There are direct trains to Jenbach station from several local and international cities, including Munich, Milan, and Vienna. From there, trains on the Zillertalbahn will get you up into the valley with ease.

2. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen village | Day hikes in Europe

There appear to be a lifetime’s worth of scenic walks and hikes from the valley of Lauterbrunnen. The small slice of Swiss heaven sits at the foot of seemingly impassable cliffs. But once you set off you’ll find a vast network of well-maintained paths that offer some of the most dramatic views of snow-capped peaks, pristine fields, turquoise snow-fed lakes and high-altitude waterfalls. When the going gets tough you might be lucky enough to stumble across a beautiful traditional mountain hut, where you can sip on a cup of hot chocolate overlooking the most surreal of vistas.

Schilthorn hiking path Switzerland | Day hikes in Europe

One hike to try: The hike from the Lauterbrunnen valley up to the Schilthorn peak is not for the faint of heart, but the constantly changing views are well worth the exertion for the experienced hiker. If the altitude and distance get the better of you, you can always hitch a ride on the gondola back to a more reasonable height.

More info: schilthorn.ch

How to get there by train: There are several local and international trains to nearby Interlaken. Catch a private (Eurail Pass not valid) narrow-gauge train from Interlaken Ost up the Lauterbrunnen valley.

3. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Alpine Meadow Planina Zajamniki in Bohinj | Day hikes in Europe

While many people look to the likes of Switzerland, Italy, and Austria for dramatic mountain hikes, many travelers forget that the picturesque country of Slovenia is one of the continent’s most scenically beautiful destinations. It’s perfect for those seeking day hikes in Europe. There are hikes aplenty throughout the country, but the idyllic Bohinj offers the perfect starting point for scenic walks among the Julian Alps. People often call it the more beautiful version of nearby Lake Bled. This might seem hyperbolic until you actually lay your eyes on this pristine piece of Slovenian wilderness.

Lake Bohinj Slovenia | Day hikes in Europe

One hike to try: The walk up to the highest summit south of Lake Bohinj, Rodica, is particularly scenic. Though long at about 6 hours, it offers ever-changing views of spectacular landscapes.

More info: www.slovenia-trips.com

How to get there by train: Take a train from Ljubljana to Lake Bled. Regular buses go from Bled to Bohinj throughout the day, and a one-way trip on the bus takes approximately 40 minutes.

4. Poprad, Slovakia

Tatra Mountain range Poprad Slovakia | Day hikes in Europe

The High Tatras straddle the border between Poland and Slovakia. You can reach the summit of these dramatic peaks from either country. Poprad is a small town on the Slovakian side of the mountains. It offers easy access to a wide range of incredible hikes. Make your way to the High Tatras National Park just north of Poprad for the best selection of trails. These range from easy strolls through to all-day technical hikes.

Poprad hike trail Slovakia | Day hikes in Europe

One hike to try: Krivan Peak in the Western Tatras is one of the most popular hikes amongst Slovaks, and it offers a challenging but scenically dramatic walk up to just below 2,500 meters.

More info: www.slovak-republic.org

How to get there by train: There are direct trains to Poprad from Prague, Zillna, Kosice, and Bratislava. From Poprad, there are tram-like electric trains and buses that will connect you to the mountain resorts and trails.

5. Stavanger, Norway

Norway is no stranger to scenic beauty. There are dozens of celebrated short hikes across the country. But her most famous short hike, Pulpit Rock, offers stomach churning views and spectacular photo opportunities. This vertical cliff face attracts thousands of tourists each year. It requires a ferry and a bus ride from the nearest town to get to it, but don’t let that put you off – the short 2 to 4 hour return walk regularly ranks amongst visitors’ number one European travel experiences.

Pulpit Rock Norway | Day hikes in Europe

One hike to try: Hike up to Pulpit Rock and tip-toe your way to the very edge – it’s an experience you won’t quickly forget.

More info: www.visitnorway.com

How to get there by train: Take a convenient scenic train to Stavanger from Oslo, via Kristiansand. Then from Stavanger Station, catch a bus to Pulpit Rock – all routes involve a ferry connection.

If you’re going on a hiking adventure during your Eurail trip, get peace of mind with travel insurance. We’ve teamed up with World Nomads to make sure you and your belongings are covered if anything happens.

While much of Europe’s charm lies in its beautiful cities, getting out into nature helps to put it all into perspective. But with a Eurail Global Pass, getting to these spectacular day hikes in Europe is as easy as hopping aboard a train.


Similar to “Day hikes in Europe”:
5 epic (and easy) European hikes you can reach by train
Outdoor activities near Lake Bled, Slovenia
Top 10 adventurous must-dos on your Eurail trip

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Europe

Reflections of Gratitude, From All of Us at TTC

Dear Traveler, 

It has been said that while appreciation happens in the moment, gratitude comes only over time. These days, those of us at TTC – like travelers all around the world – are spending our time very differently than we had expected nor want to be doing right now. 

With our travels put on hold, we would like to use this time to step back and reflect on the gift of travel, recalling some of the amazing places we have been, the wonder we have experienced, and the people we have met.

This coming in the midst of the celebration of TTC’s first 100 years, is unfortunate, but there will be another time for that in the future. We know that the gates of travel will open again, hopefully soon, and we very much look forward to that day, and to traveling again with you. For now, we would like to share some of our stories and memories of ways travel has enriched our lives. We invite you to join us, recalling travels of your own, letting collective appreciation blossom into gratitude.

Brett Tollman
Chief Executive – TTC

A few years ago, I was planning a trip to South America, which was to be my partner’s first time to the continent. Having been there several times, I had made a list of iconic destinations: Peru, Argentina and Brazil. Seeing the list, my partner asked if we could also visit Easter Island.

I was perplexed, for beautiful and historical as it is, Easter Island rarely features on the itinerary of a first-time traveler to South America. 

He explained that his father, who had passed away tragically in his early 40’s, had been an ‘armchair traveler,’ living out his travel dreams perusing copies of National Geographic. He had been fascinated by the stories of Easter Island – or Rapa Nui, as it was originally known – and had theorized over how they moved the gigantic ancient Moa statues. A miniature Moa had always adorned their fireplace mantle, and after his father’s passing, my partner kept as a memento.

This opportunity to travel to Easter Island became a pilgrimage for my partner in honor of his late father. I am so grateful to have joined him as he explored Rapa Nui. We will both remember that journey for the rest of our lives. 

Neil Rodgers – Managing Director, Adventure World Travel

Greece, September 1988.

The plane doors opened. Walking down the steps engulfed in warm air, I squeeze my mother’s hand in excitement! Our first journey abroad for what seems like an eternity. 

Our destination? Lindos, Rhodes! Why? The simple turn of a glossy travel brochure page and the sight of an unforgettable single image. 

Finally, on our way to the village of Lindos, eagerly scanning every detail of the landscape speeding by, I spot the outline of a fortress standing on a hill in the distance.  It catches my breath. My heart races. I hug my mum so tightly. As we approach a large curve in the road high above the sparkling sea and there it is… No words can describe that first glimpse, the first journey, the first love. 

Who was to know I would be sitting here in my kitchen 32 years later reliving that very moment, overflowing with sentiment and gratitude? 

Forever will I be grateful for my first trip to Greece. Grateful to the Greek people and my beloved Greek husband, family, colleagues and friends for embracing me – a Scot from the isle of Mull – as one of their own. Grateful to the Greek nation for its solidarity in the fight against Covid-19 and its ongoing efforts to ensure our esteemed international travelers can once again realize their dreams, and travel to Greece, just like I did 32 years ago.

Fiona Thomson Spanoudaki – Operations Senior Manager, Siva Travel Services 

Over many years of traveling, I’ve developed a deep sense of respect for authentic cultural and nature-based experiences. With that respect comes gratitude for the rich and diverse cultures that we are so fortunate to visit. 

A perfect example occurred recently when I was in Finland researching new adventures to add to Adventure World’s Scandinavia program.  There I learned for the first time about the unique Sami culture – Europe’s only Indigenous Peoples – from the Lapland region of Scandinavia. While visiting the Siida Sami Museum in the village of Inari, I learned how the Sami culture had been maligned over generations through inauthentic and exploitive tourist practices.

As I came to understand this, I found an opportunity to provide genuine, immersive tourism experiences that help travelers gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Sami culture, while providing the Sami with a sustainable source of income. 

I am deeply grateful to the Sami people, as well as other indigenous communities, for allowing us to respectfully share their rich and unique cultures.

Andrew Hutchinson – Head of Product & Operations, Adventure World Travel

Having spent 18 years as a Travel Director with The Travel Corporation, it’s hard to identify a single favorite place. If I had to choose, though, I would say Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park.  Through my visits there I have become friends with the Anangu ladies, and recently I was invited to join them for a night camping in the bush to learn about Aboriginal Australian culture. It was truly an honor to sit with them around the fire, listening to stories that have been passed down for thousands of years.  

Sleeping out under the stars in a swag on a freezing cold night in May definitely gave me a greater appreciation of existence.  Seeing how the Anagu ladies connected with the land,  I came away from that experience with a much deeper appreciation of the need to stop and listen to the country.  I will be eternally grateful for that experience.

Nellie Pome – Travel Director, AAT Kings

Those of us at Red Carnation Hotels are fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know and serve our wonderful guests. In 2012, The Chesterfield Mayfair had the honor of welcoming His Holiness The Dalai Lama for a three night stay.  He was traveling in the United Kingdom with a group of eight monks who also stayed with us.  An early riser, he required a 4:00am breakfast in his room, which consisted of blueberry muffins and sliced papaya.  Prior to his departure he presented the staff who delivered his breakfast with a white scarf he had blessed as a token of his appreciation. 

He also presented the hotel’s team with another white scarf he had blessed before leaving, to thank them for looking after him as well as wishing them every blessing for the future.  The visit by His Holiness made a strong impression on the team. We were all deeply grateful for the opportunity to meet such an inspiring and iconic leader. 

Jonathan Raggett – Managing Director, Red Carnation Hotels

Having recently married and into life on the island of Mykonos, Greece, my husband took me to meet his extended family in the village of Agiasos on the island of Lesvos. I quickly learned that Mykonos and Lesvos are two very different islands; while Mykonos is quite cosmopolitan, Lesvos is very rugged. Arriving in this rural mountain village, I met his aunties, uncles and cousins. The local dialect they spoke was so different to the Greek I had been struggling to learn. Unable to comprehend their language, I wondered how I would manage, even for the length of our stay. 

And yet, somehow, as we sat at tables piled high with delicious foods, the sea surrounding us and ouzo flowing, their warmth and generosity came through with no need for words. Out came the instruments and we began to sing. Music and laughter are universal languages, and both were plentiful.  

Travel has given me so much, from the new family I acquired to the lifelong friends I have made to the experiences I will never forget. Discovering a new culture has opened my mind to a way of life so different from what I knew. It has shaped me into the person I am today, and for this I am deeply grateful.

Moraig Macgreggor – Travel Director, Siva Travel Services

After a private viewing of The Doge’s Palace, our local expert Ana took us through the lesser known streets of Venice, giving us an insider’s view of the back alleys, canals, and hidden local traditions I had not yet experienced.  Suffice to say, had I tried to walk these streets without Ana’s expertise I would have been completely lost! Halfway through the tour, Daniele, our Luxury Gold Traveling Concierge, excused himself, leaving us in Ana’s capable hands.  At the tour’s end, Ana led the group into a tiny, locally frequented café, featuring locals reading local papers under a backdrop of local photos. I felt as if I was being treated to a little secret.   

Danielle had taken over the bar, lining up Venetian style aperitif sandwiches and Aperol Spritzes for the entire group. The spritzes, in true local tradition, featured an olive (not the usual orange slice), just the way Venetians like it! I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel to these amazing places in the role I am in.

Anthony Sollecito Rich – National Accounts Sales Executive USA, Insight Vacations Luxury Gold

I love working in a job where we get to make people’s dreams come true. Living in working here in South Africa, it is such a great pleasure to welcome the world to our shores, showing them this remarkable country land. My work here has opened the doors to my own personal travels around the world, including Israel (above, in Jerusalem), destinations throughout Africa, India, and the United States. 

I suppose I’m something of adrenaline junkie. I’ve loved going micro-lighting (above, over Victoria Falls) white-water rafting, bungee-jumping, hang-gliding, fly-boarding, abseiling, a tandem parachute jump and shark cage diving – they all make me feel great to be alive. That’s the magic of working in travel – every day is unique. And for that, I am grateful.

Jonathan Gadiah – CEO, Thompsons Africa

I was just a teenager when I set off from my home in Bucharest, Romania to backpack around Europe. Travel was my first taste of absolute freedom. It has shaped my entire life since then, and for this I am deeply grateful.

Since that first journey, and now as a Wellbeing Coach for Uniworld, I have traveled to places I had never imagined, studying Yoga in India, swimming with turtles in the Indian Ocean, and living with a family in Sri Lanka (above).

When I think back over these travels, a collage of images comes to mind. I think of meals I have shared. I will never forget eating my first “croissant avec chocolat” next to the Eiffel Tower, Dosha Massala in Trivandum, Kerala, or drinking cappuccino with new found friends while admiring the endless views from atop the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, in Dubai.

Much as I love the food and the sites, for me travel is all about the people, my fellow travelers and the locals I have met. I am so grateful for the chance to get to know such fun and fascinating friends. And, when the time comes for us all to travel again, I cannot wait to see who I will meet.

Elena Lavinia Nejloveanu – Wellbeing Coach, Uniworld

Categories
Europe

The Dolomites In Autumn: 7 Unforgettable Views

The Dolomites mountain range stretches across northeastern Italy, just beneath the Austrian border. Although it covers a small region, narrow valleys and sheer cliff walls make it a truly stunning location. More than 18 peaks reach above 3000 meters and a seemingly endless network of mountain roads, hiking paths, and via ferratas make exploring them incredibly easy. Multi-day hiking trips are popular, too, especially if you go to the Dolomites in autumn. Mountain refuges provide shelter and food to visitors at incredible value.

7 beautiful views of the Dolomites in autumn

1. Tre Cime di Lavaredo

The three stunning peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo are a historical marker in the Dolomites. The mountain used to mark the Austria-Italy border until 1919. Today, it marks the Dolomite’s cultural divide. Italian is the main language to the south, while German still rules to the north. These mountains were also on the front lines during WWI.  Man-made bunkers, fortifications, and historical plaques dot the landscape.

This area is a hiker’s paradise. Several hiking routes and mountain refuges lead in all directions. The most popular one is the 2-day hike from Monte Paterno to the Locatelli Rifugio, via Pattern Pass.

2. Lago Di Braies

Lago Di Braies | The Dolomites in autumn

Lago Di Braies or Prager Wildsee (in German) is a destination on its own. It has a large hotel, boat rentals, and day hikes that begin right along its shore. It’s also the beginning of the 150 kilometer Alta Via 1 trail, which takes in much of the Dolomite’s best scenery.

The area is pretty busy throughout the summer months, with an average of nearly 3000 visitors per day. The boat rentals might be closed for the season if you visit the Dolomites in autumn, but you’ll experience a far more natural – and quiet – experience.

3. Alpe di Siusi

Alpe De Siusi | The Dolomites in autumn

While you can drive to the high meadows of Alpe di Siusi, the road is only open from 5pm until 9am. During the day, you can reach the area via a cable car that runs from Siusi to Compaccio. From there, hiking trails lead off in all directions. The most incredible views are, without a doubt, the dramatic cliff faces of the neighboring Sasso Piatto and Sasso Lungo mountains.

4. Wuhnleger Pond

Wuhnleger Pond | The Dolomites in autumn

Multi-day hikes like the Alta Via 1-8 routes are popular across the Dolomites, but you won’t need to hike long distances for amazing views. Wuhnleger Pond is just a short 40-minute hike from Tiers, in Bolzano Province. It gives a picture-perfect reflection of the Rosengarten Group in the Catenaccio Range.

5. Val Gardena

Val Gardena | The Dolomites in autumn

Val Gardena is a wide valley in Italy’s South Tyrol Province. It can be busy in both the winter and summer, as it’s best known as a skiing and rock climbing destination. But the local mountains are most beautiful in the autumn, after the Larch trees turn orange. Looking for another reason to visit this area of the Dolomites in autumn? The complete lack of crowds. The entire area is practically deserted between the two major tourism seasons.

Val Gardena is also a cultural anomaly, as it’s home to Laden People. This small ethnic group, which is native to five valleys throughout northern Italy, makes up approximately 4.5% of the current population. The culture is celebrated and preserved thanks to government-sponsored institutes like the Istitut Ladin Micura de Ru in the San Martin de Tor municipality.

6. Lago Dobbiaco

Lago Dobbiaco | The Dolomites in autumn

Lago Dobbiaco is a starting point to explore both Sesto and the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Parks. It’s within walking distance of the Dobbiaco/Toblach train station, and a pleasant 2-hour hike traces the lake shore. The views are spectacular and interpretive signs give information about the region’s rich flora and fauna. There are also five nearby bunkers, which were built by Mussolini to protect access to Italy.

7. Santa Maddalena Alta Bozen

Santa Maddalena | The Dolomites in autumn

The Santa Maddalena Church and the Odle Mountain backdrop is one of the Dolomite’s premier photo opportunities, but there’s plenty more to do in the Val de Funes area. The Zannes Mountain Pasture is just a few minutes from the Santa Maddalena Church and it’s the starting point for several great hikes. The Adolf Munkel trail lies beneath the soaring Odle range, while the Puez-Odle nature park offers a wide selection of climbing routes for all mountaineering abilities.

In 2009, the Dolomites became a UNESCO World Heritage Site to preserve the natural beauty found within this mountain landscape. It’s all surprisingly accessible by trains that run between Lienz, Austria, and Bolzano, Italy. From the train stations in San Candido, Dobbiaco, Brunico, and other towns, it’s a matter of hopping on public transport or joining the closest hiking trail to explore the mountains. If you want to go on your own true Italian adventure, then a Eurail Italy Pass will help you get there.


Related articles:
Switzerland and Italy in two weeks
Europe in the fall – the 6 best destinations
Europe’s most beautiful places for nature

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Europe

With A Little Help From Our Friends – From TTC And Our Guests

JULY 23, 2020 

Dear Traveler, 

For those of us who love to explore the world, friendship and travel are intimately connected – asking a traveler about friendship is like asking a fish about water. It’s all around us. There are the friends with whom we set off on our journeys and fellow travelers we befriend along the way. There are guides with whom we build relationships and locals who we meet as strangers and leave as friends. For those of us at TTC, looking back over our first century, friendship has shaped so much of who we are and what we do, in the connections to our guests, our partners, and to each other. The bonds we make stretch through time, across cultures, and around the world.

As we all know, friends are especially important in difficult times, and this year has been the most difficult in recent memory. As we look toward International Friendship Day on July 30, we are particularly appreciative of the friends we have made through travel. To celebrate, those of us at TTC have reached out to our guests and to each other, searching through our memories and our scrapbooks for photographs, stories, and sayings to remind us of friends we have made along the road – and inspire us for the new friends we will be making when our travels resume.

For now, we share these with you hoping they’ll inspire you to recall friendships you’ve made in your travels, and perhaps take the opportunity to reach out to a friend this year on July 30. While circumstances may prevent us from being physically together, we can look forward to the time when we travel again (#whenwetravelagain).

 Until then, we’ll get by with a little help from our friends.

“IN THE SWEETNESS OF FRIENDSHIP LET THERE BE LAUGHTER, FOR IN THE DEW OF LITTLE THINGS THE HEART FINDS ITS MORNING AND IS REFRESHED.”

– KHALIL GIBRAN

JOCELYN UYGONGCO, Insight Vacations Traveler (and food blogger)
@thewingedpalette

“My love for travel has taken me from the Philippines across the world and to all seven continents. On our annual school reunion trips, my friends and I have been to Spain,
Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore – and Egypt! Our next destination: Croatia!”

“A SWEET FRIENDSHIP REFRESHES THE SOUL.”

– PROVERBS 27:9

WANDA KOWALCZYK (RIGHT), Vice President, Product Development Uniworld

“Aboard the Ganges Voyager II with my dear friend Mo, on a Uniworld cruise of India’s Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges. We were dressed for a dinner on deck with dancing and fireworks. Afterwards, the crew released hundreds of lanterns into the water. Seeing them drift off was magical – we will treasure the memory of that evening for the rest of our lives.”

“A GOOD FRIEND IS LIKE A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER: HARD TO FIND AND LUCKY TO HAVE.”

– IRISH SAYING

JONATHAN RAGGETT (RIGHT), Managing Director Red Carnation Hotels

MALCOLM HENDRY (LEFT) General Manager of Rubens at the Palace and Hotel 41 (Malcolm was recently named Top General Manager Worldwide by Luxury Travel Advisor)

“Our friendship dates back to 1999; in fact we welcomed in the new Millennium from the same spot where we stand in this picture, on the roof of The Rubens at the Palace. Malcolm joined the company as Deputy General Manager at The Milestone in 2000, and in 2004 was appointed General Manager of The Rubens, Hotel 41 and bbar. We respect each other’s direct style and share a similar sense of humor and values. We both work hard and recognize the importance of being out front looking after our guests and our staff. We are extremely competitive – which means both hotels do better than competitors because of our wonderful guest loyalty.

Outside work we both have a passion for football, and although Malcolm has the edge by supporting the better team in the Premier League (Arsenal rather than West Ham), the tables are turned when it comes to supporting our countries of birth – England v. Scotland!”

“WE ARE ALL TRAVELERS IN THE WORLD AND THE BEST WE CAN FIND IN OUR TRAVELS IS AN HONEST FRIEND.”

– ROBERT LOUIS STEPHENSON

LAURA MARSHALL, Contiki Traveler

“I met my best friend, Naomi, on a Contiki trip in Australia in 2015. We had both been through difficult times before booking, and bonded on a night out in Cairns. We see each other as much as we can, have traveled to places all over the world. We have decided we will go on a trip every year to celebrate meeting. She is my soul mate!!! Everything happens for a reason
and meeting her topped of my already amazing trip!”

“WE DIDN’T REALIZE WE WERE MAKING MEMORIES, WE WERE JUST HAVING FUN.”

– WINNIE THE POOH

MICHAEL UNRATH, Trafalgar’s Head of Product for Europe and Great Britain

“I befriended a group of school kids in Murghab, Tajikistan. We didn’t speak a word of each others language, but the welcome and connection was as warm as it could be.”

“THE ROAD TO A FRIEND’S HOUSE IS NEVER LONG.”

– DANISH PROVERB

NATHELLE TOGNI, Uniworld Guest

“Since my husband, Richard, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013, we have had the good fortune to be on six Uniworld Cruises. The care of your crews and support of fellow passengers have made for wonderful experiences and friendships – here’s Richard with Henk Jan Plaatje, Captain of The River Empress. As we look through the albums we will
treasure these journeys for a lifetime.”

“MANY PEOPLE WILL WALK IN AND OUT OF YOUR LIFE,
BUT ONLY TRUE FRIENDS LEAVE FOOTPRINTS IN YOUR HEART.”

– ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

Finally, we invite you to view this story of a Contiki adventure in Rome where a group of young travelers learned the truth of Helen Keller’s words:
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light.”

“DON’T WALK BEHIND ME; I MAY NOT LEAD. DON’T WALK IN FRONT OF ME; I MAY NOT FOLLOW. JUST WALK BESIDE ME AND BE MY FRIEND.”

– ALBERT CAMUS

Categories
Europe

A Guide to Riding the Scenic Flåm Railway in Norway

Undoubtedly one of Europe’s most spectacular train journeys, the Flåm Railway is one of Norway‘s highlights. Although only 20km in length, this engineering marvel transports passengers from sea level in Flåm, all the way up to Myrdal at 886 meters.

As the train snakes its way up the Flåm Valley, you’ll pass waterfalls, villages, and picturesque country houses. The trip takes about an hour, passing through 20 tunnels, stopping at several villages along the way on its journey from sea level to the mountain plateau.

Riding the Flåm Railway

Flåm lies in the innermost corner of the Aurlands Fjord, a tributary of the 204 km long and up to 1308 meter deep, Sogne Fjord. It’s a small town but it is used to accommodating tourists. There are tour agencies, different accommodations, a free museum, restaurants, cafes, and bike, car, and kayak rentals.

People have lived along the fjord ever since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. The rich fishing and hunting grounds and protection from the open sea made it a good place to live. It has historically been easier to reach Flåm and the fjord settlements by boat, rather than over the mountains.

The Flåm Valley is a typical west Norwegian fjord valley created during millions of years of weathering. Hiking trails criss-cross the valley in addition to one which covers the length of the valley. With the better part of a day, you could cover the 20km by foot, choosing to either hike up or down between Flåm and Myrdal, taking the train in the reverse direction. Hiking maps are available at the Flåm Visitor’s Center.

Myrdal

Flåm railway | Myrdal in Norway

Myrdal station lies high on the mountain plateau with nothing but a waiting room, ticket desk, and small cafe. At nearby Vatnahalsen you’ll find a hotel where winter sport enthusiasts or hikers stay.

Myrdal lies on the Bergen Line which shuttles passengers between Oslo and Bergen in about 7 hours. So most passengers are likely to come from one of Norway’s two biggest cities. The trains to and from Flåm connect at Myrdal at convenient times with most day trains running between Oslo and Bergen.

The Norway in a Nutshell Option

Flåm railway | Beautiful scene of mountain and fjord in Flam, Norway

The Norwegian tourism board promotes its Norway in a Nutshell route which gives the traveler a glimpse of the best scenery from several modes of travel. This involves a rail-boat-bus combo giving you a chance to see the splendor of the Sogne Fjord — Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. The route incorporates the Flåm Railway between Myrdal and Flåm, a boat ride linking Flåm and Gudvangen, and a bus connecting Gudvangen and Voss, or in the reverse direction. The Bergen railway connects you between Bergen, Voss, Myrdal, and Oslo.

Riding the Flåm Railway with Eurail

Flåm railway | Flam railway train running on the mountain tracks on a bright sunny day in Norway

Norway’s Flåm Railway takes you through highlights of some of the country’s famous scenery. It’s also one of the world’s steepest railways. National Geographic Traveler Magazine named the Flam Railway as one of the top 10 train journeys in Europe and Lonely Planet named it the best train journey in the world in 2014. Flamsbana operates the line.

Travel time between Flåm and Myrdal is about one hour, including brief stops along the way to allow tourists to take photos and see the Kjosfossen waterfall. Eurail Pass holders are entitled to a 30% discount on the price of tickets. You don’t have to make a reservation. The line is operational throughout the year with four daily departures in winter and 9-10 in the summer. All seasons are scenic.


Enthusiastic about Norway? Get even more excited:
How You Can Tackle Norway On A Budget
5 Of The Best Things To Do In Bergen, Norway
Norway’s Stunning Rauma Scenic Train Ride

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Europe

Bringing The Future Into Focus

By Ella Lurie Tollman

Having been born a Tollman, I suppose it’s no surprise that travel has been such an important part of the first twenty years of my life. Though I grew up and currently live in Los Angeles – while Zooming into college at NYU – my earliest memories are of time spent with my family exploring the bush in South Africa, then later visiting cousins around the world and on family trips like the one above, in Paris.

This picture is one of so many photographs from our travels, which my parents compiled into the beautiful albums that I pore over time and again as I relive those adventures. It has been through these albums that I discovered my love of photography, which has so influenced my experiences of the places we have been and will shape those to come, in places I dream of discovering.

While I love photography of all kinds, my passion is film photography – the kind everyone did before digital cameras came along. You remember – rolls of film you would load into a camera, keeping them safely from the light? You would wind between shots and think carefully about the pictures you took, as each one used up a 35 millimeter rectangle of film. And while you might plan out a shot, you would never know exactly what you got until you either developed the film yourself or picked it up from a lab. It’s so different from a digital photo, which you see instantly. But there’s something about that waiting period that brings a sense of anticipation, which is so key in photography and travel.

Photography has taught me so many lessons that shape how I view life, travel, and the future. One I have been thinking of lately is about “depth of field.” Though a technical term, it’s something we all recognize, about which objects are in focus, those that are close or those that are far away. I love photographs where the foreground is a blur while the distance is sharp and, right now, that pretty much sums up how I feel about travel. The year 2020 has been about the blurriest and most challenging year for travelers since my great-grandfather, Solomon Tollman, opened the Paternoster Hotel in a fishing village on the coast of South Africa, launching the family business, exactly 100 years ago this month.

With a global pandemic that has brought travel screeching to a halt, we are just now beginning to take our first steps forward, looking for clarity on the road ahead. And yet, blurry as the present moment may be, I feel the vision for the future has never been clearer. Far from diminishing my interest in travel, this pandemic has made me all the more enthusiastic about experiences that await, discovering new places and meeting new people. My friends feel the same way – there’s a sense of urgency and excitement. Why put your life on hold? Quoting my Papa – as I call my grandfather – who is so very wise and has seen so much, “The world will keep on spinning, and there is a time in the not too distant future when it will be full speed ahead.”

He also says to make the best of this time, so I’ve been looking back at some of my photos, thinking about lessons learned that will shape my future travels.

In 2017 my family went to Kenya with Me to We to help build a school in the Maasai Mara. I took this photo with my new Pentax (well, new to me, though already old when I got it). When the photo came back from the lab I could see that there was some light bleed, but I just loved this group of kids, with whom I really bonded while I was there. With all that’s going on in the world there is still such a desire to connect, and in the photo you can feel the real warmth they sent us off with as they said goodbye.

My father often quotes a Maori saying “It’s the people. It’s the people. It’s the people.” Like my grandfather says “You can’t do anything without people. It’s what makes the world go round.”

For the past three years in December my family has traveled to stay with friends in Carayes, Mexico, about two hours down the coast from Puerto Vallarta. Part of that trip includes helping newly hatched sea turtles find their way to the sea. They’re an endangered species, and very few of the ones that go into the sea survive to be the magnificent sea turtles we know. The scramble from their eggs on shore down to the water is one of the most perilous parts of their journey, and by giving them a head start by carrying them to the water we’re helping the species to recover.

I had intended to take a picture of the turtle, but when it came back I saw that the focus was on my brother’s hands. But the more I looked at it, the more I liked it – the shape of his hands and the way you can see the individual grains of sand. To me, this picture echoes the message of TreadRight – that it is people who make travel matter.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is the chance to step into in someone else’s shoes. In 2018 we went on another Me to WE trip, this one to Rajasthan, India. As we had done in Kenya, we went on a water walk, seeing how far the women carry water each day.

Later, we met this woman who so kindly brought us into her house to teach us how to make naan, the traditional bread of that region. She was quite proud of her dog, and asked if we would take a picture of the two of them. That’s what I love about this picture – while it’s the picture of her and the dog, it is also of my mother taking the picture, as you can just her see on the left.

Afterwards I went downstairs and outside where I saw this girl sitting. She was kind of shy, but flirty, too, and I asked if I could take her picture. I love the composition and whatever she was sitting on. It’s nothing I could have planned, just a found picture. There are lots of travel experiences like that, moments you could never expect, but turn out just right.

While my last name is Tollman, my middle name is Lurie, which is the maiden name of my grandmother – you know her as Bea Tollman, president of Red Carnation and guiding spirit of Uniworld. I know her as Nana, and it is from her that I’ve inherited my love of design and fashion, which are shaping my studies at NYU. It’s a love that runs throughout my family. I see it in the way my Aunt Toni works with Nana to design and furnish all of Uniworld’s ships, and in all the countless ways my Aunt Vicki works with her to make Red Carnation Hotels so beautiful and welcoming. I also see that same aesthetic spark in my cousin Andrew, Toni’s son, who is Global Creative Director for The Travel Corporation.

I suppose this passion for design is the source of my long-time fascination with Japan. I love the aesthetic. The sense of presentation. And the sushi. I had long dreamed of traveling there, and when my family went there in 2019 it was all I hoped for and more. Once again, however, it was the surprises that struck me. I remember traveling to Kyoto to see all the things one might hope to see, which we did. But then my brother and I took a detour from the temples and found the most amazing Vintage Western Cowboy store. Though I have no picture of it, it’s clear in my mind, and was absolutely perfect. It was also a wakeup call for me, a lesson to keep my eyes open for the unexpected.

That’s what happened with this shot in an art museum in Tokyo. When we went in they told us I could take pictures but not use my flash. At first it was a disappointment, as I thought of the shots I’d miss. But then I saw my brothers and mother framed against this window with the Tokyo skyline in the background. They were looking at an exhibit of miniature doll houses, and there was this wonderful way, for an instant, they all became part of the exhibit.

More than anything, these photos help remind me how fortunate I am, and what a gift it is to be able to travel and discover the world. The more places I travel, the more connected I feel. That comes from my family – here we are in Jerusalem, for my Bat Mitzvah.

We live in a truly amazing time. It seems like yesterday that we were free to travel the world and discover how we all are connected. Currently, having to put that on pause for now, merely makes me appreciate it all the more. I hope to give the same to my children some day, the chance to discover the world, to open doors for them that my family has opened for me. I can see that same drive in my friends. They’re hungry to see the world and have experiences, excited, willing, and eager to tie service and travel together, and there’s no better way to see the world than while having a positive impact.

Philosophical as I may be about this pause in travel, I have to say how much I miss visiting my grandparents. I love this photo I took of them in France. There is truly no one like them, and I would give anything to be able to snap my fingers right now and be with them. For now, I hold on to our weekly zoom conversations, as well as those with my mother’s mother, and treasure every word they say.

Looking through my photos I came across this one, on my dad’s shoulders, taken on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, which has always been a favorite of mine. Looking at it, I can see that my attitude toward life now is very much the same as it was then, with the same Tollman outlook: I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I’m excited nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Ella Lurie Tollman

Ella Tollman

Categories
Europe

10 day winter trip in Andalusia

Author: Vladimir Cristea

When Amsterdam and London get too grey and rainy, sunlight in Scandinavia becomes a rare sight, and the weather in the Swiss Alps becomes too cold for anything bar skiing with 4 layers of clothes on, it’s probably time to admit to yourself that it’s time to take a vacation in warm and sunny Spain.

And if you’re at it, why not go to the warmest part of Spain? With its very distinct character shaped by the blend of Moorish and Spanish culture, Andalusia is known for its spectacular palaces, sunny beaches, fantastic food and medieval cities located at the foot of imposing hills and mountains.

How to get to Andalusia

It’s very easy to get from Madrid to our first stop, Granada, in just a bit over 3 hours on a high-speed AVE train. It was during this train ride that I have traveled at the highest speed ever in my life in an on-ground vehicle – a whopping 300 km/h!

Days 1-3: Granada

The level of architectural detail on Moorish buildings is unbelievable

Granada hosts what is probably the most famous attraction of Andalusia: the Alhambra, a gorgeous palace complex situated on a hill overlooking the city, most of it built in the 13th century. You can spend hours here exploring its lush gardens and admiring the palaces, with their heavily decorated rooms and typical Moorish courtyards.

Part of the gardens in the Alhambra

Part of the gardens in the Alhambra

There is more to the city than the Alhambra, though. A highlight of our 10 days in Andalusia was to explore Granada’s narrow streets and bazars, the old Arab district of Albaicín. As well as the neighborhood of Sacromonte with its cave houses, from where the famous flamenco type of music and dance is said to have originated.

A nice little bar in Granada's Albaicín neighborhood

A nice little bar in Granada’s Albaicín neighborhood

In Granada, I got a strong impression that the city is very unique. Everywhere you could find shops selling special souvenirs that I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Europe, and the streets were scattered with little stalls selling dried fruit, tea and spices.

Of course, I have saved the best news for food lovers for last – Granada is the only place that still maintains the old Spanish tradition that every bar in which you order a drink (beer, sangría, anything!) will serve you a free tapa. If you then order another drink, you get another plate, with a different dish. And we are not talking about olives or tortilla chips, but chicken stew, fried fish, chorizo, paella, salt beef. Should I go on?

We ordered 2 beers and got the sausages for free. I love Granada.

We ordered 2 beers and got the sausages for free. I love Granada.

Day 4: Córdoba

 Córdoba feels so quiet and serene that one can hardly believe that it had once been the largest city in all of Europe. Dating from those long-gone times is the symbol of the city, the Mezquita, an imposing mosque turned cathedral, today designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Mezquita has got to be one of the most imposing buildings I have ever seen

The Mezquita has got to be one of the most imposing buildings I have ever seen

After such an architectural feast, we had to sit down at one of the many terraces lined next to the traditional Cordobés white-and-yellow houses and enjoy una cerveza fría.

My tip: Get to Córdoba early in the morning and leave in the evening for the next stop instead of sleeping there in order to only use 1 travel day from your Pass!

Days 5-7: Málaga

Málaga is a well-established favorite for expats and remote workers trying to escape the cold climate of the UK, Sweden or Belgium, but it has got just as much to offer for Eurailers.

It’s very easy to get to Málaga from Córdoba by train. There are 2 types of trains on this route, and if you are traveling on a budget, I would suggest taking an AVANT train instead of AVE. It’s only 10-15 minutes slower, but your stomach will thank you for the tapas money you will save on reservation fees, as AVANT reservations are cheaper than reservations for the AVE train.

Málaga felt to me like the most vibrant city in Andalusia, having a very glamorous yet cordial vibe. Parts of it feel like a large metropolis, other parts like the quaint Andalusian town, and yet again others like a loud seaside resort.

Here you can visit the museum dedicated to the city’s most famous resident, Pablo Picasso, and see the Alcazaba fortress with its panoramic views of the city. Don’t forget pay a quick visit to the Port of Málaga and to the Malagueta Beach to remind yourself that you are in a summer destination in the middle of January! Málaga is the kind of place where it’s delightful to simply sit at a terrace, enjoy a drink and watch people go about their business.

The beautiful Malagueta beach

The beautiful Malagueta beach

While we didn’t get to do it because we didn’t book it early enough in advance, the Caminito del Rey hiking trail seems like a lot of fun for the thrill seekers and is easily reachable with your Eurail Pass in half an hour by train from Málaga.

Days 8-10: Seville

Finally, Seville is the capital of Andalusia and its most populous city. Besides its charming city center, with its historic narrow streets, stately promenade, and local stores selling everything from fruit to flamenco dresses, there is a lot else to see in Seville.

Seville is dotted with cute small cafés and restaurants

Seville is dotted with cute small cafés and restaurants

Back when world fairs were still a thing, Seville hosted the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. For this event, the participating countries, including many former colonies from South America, built pavilions, monuments, statues and other structures in the Maria Luisa Park in central Seville. Today, many of these buildings still exist and can be seen in the park, including the famous Plaza de España.

These days, the Plaza de España is a very popular tourist spot in Seville

These days, the Plaza de España is a very popular tourist spot in Seville

Like any respectable city in the region, Seville also has a Moorish fortress totally worth visiting, the Alcázar. It is accessible from Seville’s main square, the Plaza del Triunfo, where you will also find the Cathedral of Sevilla, the fourth-largest church in the world! Don’t forget to climb its bell tower, the Giralda. It’s a perfect climb for those who hate stairs, as there are only 17 of them – the rest is made up of 35 ramps, making it possible back in the day to climb the tower on horseback.

Triana Market in Seville

Triana Market in Seville

 

Tips for travelling Andalusia in winter

  • The weather in Andalusia has been fantastic in early January. I am not exaggerating when I say that there has only been one partially cloudy day. The non-stop sun coupled with temperatures of 15-20°C during the day (even warmer in Málaga) made for amazing “winter” weather. In summer the temperature was over 40°C, so winter is definitely one of the best times to visit the region, and everything is much less crowded as well. Do take a warmer jacket with you, though, as it gets chilly at night.
  • While it’s an absolute pleasure to simply walk around the cities, soak up the sun, and stop at terraces to have some tapas, it would be a bummer to go to Andalusia without seeing some of its top landmarks. In this region I have seen some of the most fantastic architecture I have seen in my life, so those places understandably get a lot of visitors even in the winter season. To avoid unpleasant surprises, try to book some sights early in advance: the Alhambra, the Mezquita of Córdoba, the Caminito del Rey and the Alcázar of Seville.

 

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Meet “Super Travelers” Bob & Bonnie: 35 Vacations & Counting…

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