Budget Travel Warehouse Inc. London Ontario's Blog

Three European River Cruises You May Never Have Heard Of

River cruising is taking off.  It has become one of the most popular ways to visit the heartland of Europe, a relaxed way for travelers to explore famous cities and the scenic villages, history, and vineyards of the countryside.

The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone.  But lesser-known rivers are finally getting their day in the sun. Here are our favorites to check out, even if you haven't already checked the Big Three off your travel bucket list:

The Seine:

Route:  Seine river cruises usually begin, and often round-trip to Paris.  The river flows north, ending at the sea in Normandy.  Some itineraries include crossing the Channel, with a stay in London. London, Paris, and French countryside in between?  Formidable!  As the French would say.

Highlights: You had us at 'Paris'.  Most itineraries include at least one pre- or post- cruise day, and in our opinion, you'll want to top it up to at least three days minimum in the City of Light.

(BestTrip.tv)

Art Lover? The region is the birthplace of Impressionism.  Cruises call at Giverny, Claude Monet's home, where the flower and water gardens that inspired some of his most famous works are still on view.  And don't miss Rouen's second largest collection of Impressionist art in the world (after Paris' Musee d'Orsay).

Normandy is the largest region in France that is NOT a wine-producing region (the horror!). Instead, the signature Norman beverage is Calvados – a brandy-like spirit made from the region's famous apple crops.  The dairy cattle grazing in fields throughout the countryside supply the milk for the area's most famous cheese: Camembert.

One of the biggest draws is the opportunity to visit the World War 2 D-Day Landing Beaches.  American, British and Canadian sites are emotional reminders of the epic struggle to gain the first foothold in the quest to free Europe. Memorial centers bring the stories of the battles and soldiers to life, and can help trace family members who fought.  

Bordeaux:

Route: Rather than traveling on one river, a cruise in this storied area of south-western France is more like traveling on spokes, where the city of Bordeaux is something of a hub to explore along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, and Gironde estuary.

Highlights:  This is a wine lover's dream. When you hear the word 'Bordeaux', we bet your first thought is wine.  Ours is! Bordeaux is the capital of the Aquitaine region, and a wine region: the largest, one of the oldest, and most prestigious in France.  

(Classic car road rally from wine chateau to wine chateau? Of course. BestTrip.tv)

Some of the most fabled and historic vineyards and wine houses are here, including Chateau d'Yquem, that holds the record for the most expensive bottle of wine in the world, and Chateau Margaux, the first grand cru.  Daily visits and tastings let you immerse yourself in the history, terroirs, and flavors of Medoc, Cadillac's Sauternes, Saint-Emilion, the first wine region to be protected by UNESCO, and more.

(Bordeaux from the river. BestTrip.tv)

The city of Bordeaux has been called the 'essence of elegance', second only to Paris as the French city with the most protected architecture. Its 18th century French design is best represented by the breathtaking Place de la Bourse. Best of all, your cruise ship docks in the 'Port de la Lune', a crescent shaped part of the river in the heart of the historic city.  It's like the city is a theater, and you have the best seats in the house from the top deck of your river cruise ship.

Bordeaux keeps its eye to the future, too, with modern architecture, vineyards and developments, including the new and astonishing riverbank 'Cite du Vin' – a vast museum of wine whose wildly modern design evokes a stylized decanter, or maybe a curving grape vine, or maybe the swirl of wine being poured into a glass... However you interpret the design, the new center firmly entrenches Bordeaux as the world capital of wine.

Douro:

Route: The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. The scenic Douro Valley passes historic centers, and famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture. 

Highlights:

The port city of Porto is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and 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.

(Porto Tourism and Convention Board)

Porto's name suggests its claim to fame.  This is the home of port wine. In 1756, it became the first demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. 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 common in most social circles. (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, featuring the 2000-year old, 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.

(Porto Tourism and Convention Board)

At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Some itineraries cross the border to vibrant Salamanca, whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows. Thie UNESCO World Heritage city has a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus, the ultimate world traveler, once studied.

Start your Trip!

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Get into the French Gourmet Culinary Spirit even on your Trans-Atlantic Flight

Michelin-starred cuisine airplane food? Oui, c'est possible! French Michelin-starred chefs have signed new menus in Air France's La Premiere (First) and Business cabins.

Until the end of this year, travelers flying on Air France on board long-haul flights departing from Paris, will be able to enjoy new dishes signed by renowned French chefs Régis Marcon in La Première class and by Guy Martin in Business class.

Régis Marcon, a triple-starred chef in La Première cabin: The Bounty of the Autumn Season in France

To continue to surprise Air France’s La Première customers with inventive gourmet cuisine, Régis Marcon is signing new dishes for the remainder of 2016; unique gourmet creations concocted with the best French produce. By choosing this triple Michelin-starred Chef, Air France wishes to promote its role of ambassador of fine French cuisine around the world. From Ardèche to Auvergne, between the plains and mountains between Velay and Vivarais, Régis Marcon offers his interpretations of authentic cuisine with a particular emphasis on seasonal produce.

Just look at the autumn abundance of French gastronomy in these dishes:

  • Duck and wild mushroom terrine
  • Chicken terrine
  • John Dory fillet in a white butter sauce with verbena, chanterelles and spinach,
  • Braised veal shank,
  • Chicken with black morels.
  • Catfish and shrimp bouillabaisse-style,
  • Duck pâté en croûte.

In Business Class, Guy Martin, the renowned chef of Le Grand Véfour: Global Flavors

Air France is entrusting its Business menu for the rest of 2016 to Guy Martin, honoured with two Michelin stars. On departure from Paris, on board long-haul flights and certain medium-haul flights, the chef invites travelers to discover or rediscover a selection of main dishes, inspired by global flavors and changed every two weeks, including:

  • Cod, basmati rice with curcuma, mashed courgette with cashew nuts, coconut sauce fragranced with Espelette pepper;
  • Veal chuck chop with fried wild mushrooms, artichoke puree and organic beetroot and blackcurrant sauce;
  • Fried prawns, broccoli with ginger, butternut puree with shellfish and parsley sauce;
  • Orecchiette pasta with squid and rocket, tomato fragranced with coriander;
  • Roast breast of guinea fowl, carrot and cardamom puree, organic red quinoa risotto and  cranberry juice;
  • Veal stew fragranced with Maniguette pepper, penne pasta with organic corn, vegetables and baby onions.

It will be less difficult to leave France behind with cuisine like this to enjoy on your flight home!

What if you're Flying to Paris? Gourmet French cuisine isn't a one-way street… or flight.

Air France passengers lucky enough to be departing from Los Angeles, New York and Washington and traveling to Paris-Charles de Gaulle will have the opportunity to dine on cuisine it's tough to get a reservation for on the ground!

Until March, 2017, you can enjoy dishes on board created by Daniel Boulud (pictured), the renowned Michelin-starred French chef based in the United States. His restaurants have made him an influential player on the New York food scene, with his flagship restaurant “Daniel” listed as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world, acclaimed for its excellent cuisine and service.

For the meals on board, as only the French can describe, 'Daniel Boulud brings creativity and soulfulness to dishes based in French technique and enlivened with global flavors and spices.'

Full Service

The French understand that you eat with your eyes as well as with your tastebuds.

So your gourmet meal is served with items designed by the masters in the art of dining à la française (French style). Your dinner is served at your convenience and presented on a white tablecloth and table set designed by Jean-Marie Massaud, including a Bernardaud porcelain plate and beveled Christofle glasses and flatware.  Each of these stylish elements also displays the art deco winged seahorse, the symbol of Air France

All we can say is, Bon Appetit!

Start your Trip!

 

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What to Order at the Bar in... Mediterranean Travel Destinations

When you imagine an escape to the sunny, sensuous Mediterranean, what drink are you ordering at the bar? 

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's producer/ host, shares her favorites.

I once traveled with a cameraman who spent our entire 3-week, 10+ city film shoot in the Mediterranean trying to teach bartenders how to make a White Russian. The confusion – and often disdain - on their faces was priceless. On one occasion, the rest of the crew was blissfully sipping delicious local wine at a table under umbrellas on Barcelona's Las Ramblas pedestrian thoroughfare, soaking in the ambiance and enjoying a rare break. He spent half an hour trying to explain to the waiter how to make a White Russian. Finally the waiter exclaimed, 'But sir! In Spain, only children drink milk!'

Don’t be that guy. When you're looking to switch it up from the regional wine or beer or straight-up spirits, here's a list of cocktails you can confidently order like a local.

Kir Royale:

My first love affair with a cocktail began when I lived in France. It's still the first thing I do whenever I arrive anywhere in France, from Normandy to Nice: go to an elegant bar, ideally with a view, and order a Kir Royale to toast my return to one of my most beloved travel destinations. Kir Royale is made from crème de cassis (black currant liqueur – there's no cream, crème de… refers to any sweetened cordial) and champagne. You can also order a Kir, which is the same cocktail but with white wine instead of champagne (royale in a cocktail refers to champagne) or, as I discovered in a restaurant in the Beaujolais region, a Cardinal, made with red wine instead of white.

Tastes like the South of France! Lynn Elmhirst, Pastis, c BestTrip.TV

Tastes like the South of France! Lynn with her Pastis. c BestTrip.TV

Pastis:

In the south of France, particularly in Marseille, locals are most likely to be ordering Pastis at a café. Pastis barely qualifies as a 'cocktail'. It isn't even mixed by the bartender. Generally, you are given your own bottle of anise-flavored liqueur and a carafe of (often iced) water; you mix them together to your own taste. The moment you add water, your cocktail becomes cloudy. Don’t worry, it's supposed to look like that. Ah, but you don't like black licorice or anything anise-flavored, right? Trust me, in the blistering Mediterranean summer sun, nothing tastes more perfect. Or trust French good taste: they are said to drink 130 million litres every year.

Ouzo:

The French are not alone in developing an anise-based liqueur. It's a common theme in traditional spirits in the Mediterranean. The version distilled in Greece is Ouzo. Good Ouzos are complex, containing numerous botanicals in addition to anise. That means there are nearly as many versions as there are distillers of Ouzo. And like pastis in Marseille and Provence, it's drunk mixed with water, perfect for a dry throat on a hot Mediterranean day.

Enjoy a Bellini on the Westin Europa and Regina's terrace and watch Venice sail by on the Grand Canal. C BestTrip.TV

Bellini:

It's hard to say you've been to Venice if you haven't had a Bellini. The original was developed in the 1930's by the owner of Harry's Bar, and you can still order one there in Venice today. This cocktail features prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine) paired in a perfect flavor combination with white peach puree, served (like a kir royale) in a champagne flute. The ideal foreground to any photo of life on the Grand Canal in Venice.

One more before you go; the Aperol Spritz Bar at the Venice Airport c BestTrip.TV

Aperol Spritz:

If the Bellini is a bit too 'ladies' brunch' for you, give the much more savory Aperol Spritz a try. A 'spritz' is a wine-based cocktail with a bitter, botanical liqueur and a splash of soda. The Aperol Spritz has become the go-to version especially in Northern Italy. There are a reputed 300,000 consumed daily in the Veneto region alone! Aperol's vivid coral color, and flavor combining bitter oranges, rhubarb and gentian root, make it both festive and refreshing.

Negroni:

Where the Aperol Spritz is light, summery and refreshing, the Negroni is the Italian cocktail with bitter liqueur that will 'put hair on your chest' as I once told a friend when I recommended it. In this case, the bitter comes from Campari, less sweet and higher in alcohol than Aperol. Paired with gin and vermouth in an old-fashioned glass over ice with an orange peel, it packs a punch. Order one in Florence, where the Negroni was invented in 1919. The Negroni – and versions of it – have become the 'it' drink in trendy watering holes in North America, so you can show your mastery of cocktail style before your next trip to Italy.

Sangria:

Popular on patios across North America, where imaginations have run wild, producing exotic variations on Spain's original red wine and marinated fruit 'punch', Sangria is still a legitimate local drink in Spain. So even if you regularly make green grape and kiwi sangria for your own pool parties, don't miss trying the original on its home turf. In more traditional places like Madrid, you'll find Sangria that sticks to its roots. The original recipe elevates young (but still drinkable!) Spanish table wine blended with oranges, lemon, and a cinnamon stick, left overnight to blend the flavors, into a truly delectable beverage served at the table from a shared pitcher.

When to drink them:

Western Europeans generally order cocktails like these as aperitifs – afternoon/pre-dinner cocktails, occasionally with light snacks. Dinner later in the evening is usually served with wine (or in Central Europe, beer), and a dessert wine or port accompanies a sweet or cheese course.

Start your Trip!

 

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.

Three 'Starter' European River Cruises

If you haven't tried a European river cruise yet, here are the big three 'starter' cruises we're certain will get you hooked on river cruise travel.  

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

The Rhine River

Route: Rhine River cruises span at least four countries: usually the Netherlands or sometimes Belgium at one end, then through Germany and France to Basel, Switzerland at the other end.  They cover a lot of cultural and scenic ground in a week or two.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:  The Rhine River may be the granddaddy of European river cruises.  As far back as the 19th century, tourists took cruises to see the most outstanding feature of this river: a stretch of the Rhine where there are 40 castles in 40 miles.  Most are in or on the banks of the river – best viewed from the water.  In a cozy chair on the top deck of your cruise ship.  With a bottle of wine.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Beyond the castles, who can resist the excitement of Amsterdam, diamond shopping and the sexy modern trends in Belgium, or the dark and intimidating cathedral in Cologne?  This route also takes you to the vineyards around Rudesheim on the banks of the Rhine, home to famous Riesling wines.

The Danube River

Route: The Danube is the most popular European river cruise itinerary, flowing between several countries for nearly 2000 miles.  Itineraries often start pre-cruise in Prague or even Amsterdam, then on the ship through some combination of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, even Romania.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:  Many itineraries include the most trendy central European cities: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, even the lesser known, surprisingly fascinating Bratislava.   Outside these major cultural centers, scenic countryside is punctuated by medieval towns and picture perfect monasteries. There's a different wurst (sausage) and a different beer in every town, you can make a study of them!

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

The Danube also sails through one of our favorite places: the Wachau Valley. Some call it 'the Tuscany of Austria', with colourful towns and exquisite wines (famous for its Grüner Veltliner and Riesling) and vineyards you can explore by cycling tours.

The Rhone River

Route:  Unlike the other two 'starter' European river cruises, this route stays in just one country: France. The itinerary is actually a combo of the Rhone and the Saone, from Arles in the heart of Provence in the south, to France's culinary capital of Lyon and the Beaujolais region north of Lyon, often with a pre or post cruise extension in Paris via a brief high-speed train ride.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Highlights:  This river cruise itinerary not only gives you the opportunity for a pre or post cruise extension in the legendary South of France, it also makes its way through some of the most legendary wine regions of a legendary wine destination.  Take a look at a wine map of France; wine regions follow the rivers the entire length of the Rhone/Saone.  (Many of Europe's most famous wines developed in the ideal conditions provided by the river banks.) Itineraries deliver you to the doorsteps of great houses of Cotes de Provence, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, and other celebrated French wines.

Photo courtesy: BestTrip.TV

Other highlights include the breathtaking Roman amphitheatre in Arles, the bridge of the famous song in Avignon, the pinnacle of French cuisine in Lyon, and oh, and did we mention the wine?

Start your Trip!

 

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.

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