Travel Blog

If you like Europe I am sure you have traveled to Italy and most likely more than once. You know all the major regions and cities but do you know Le Marche? It is a region located south of Emilia Romania and north of Abruzzo and it is indeed a hidden gem. Most people, including Italians, have never heard of Le Marche. I just returned from a week there and I am still wondering why it took me so long to discover this unique region of Italy. The main focus of my trip was to visit the “Borghi”.

A “borgo” is a fortified small town built by a noble family around a castle, a church or a fortress between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. There are a total of 273 registered borghi within Italy and 23 of them are located in Le Marche. A very strict list of 70 criteria allows a borgo to be registered with the institute “I Borghi piu belli d’Italia”. Each borgo is unique. It is a symbol of Italian culture with artistic and architectural heritage, tradition and enogastronomic treasures.

The countryside is a beautiful painting of rolling vineyards, golden grain fields, olive groves and perched ancient borghi. It is a place where you can still feel a genuine sense of discovery and enjoy quiet pleasures as you meander the back roads and walk on cobble stones that haven’t yet been polished by the soles of a million tourists. Traditions are very strong and the opportunities for unique experiences are endless.

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For some, getting in touch with nature can be a spiritual experience. The beauty and wonders of the world can definitely be therapeutic to all of us.

I have often heard that a cruise is a perfect vacation because you can do as little or as much as you please. We have always tended to be on the busy side. We have gone to trivia games, karaoke, shows and more. Our most recent cruise on the Ruby Princess to the Mexican Riviera was different. We spent a lot of time relaxing. I learned a few tips to make this an enjoyable vacation also.

First, splurge on a balcony cabin. On Princess, the Caribe deck has balconies that are larger with a partial covering. They are especially nice when there is a bit of weather. We had breakfast on the balcony every morning. We sat out as we arrived and left ports. We were able to see the stars at night as well as sunrise and sunset. The balcony provides a unique view to your cruise.

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Glacier Bay cruiseFor some, getting in touch with nature can be a spiritual experience. The beauty and wonders of the world can definitely be therapeutic to all of us.

My recent Alaskan cruise to Glacier Bay on Holland America’s Eurodam had an amazing effect on calming my anxiety. From the time the ship left Seattle until its return to Puget Sound a week later, I was in awe of the vastness and natural beauty of America’s largest frontier. The islands, waterways, passages and tundra of the Pacific Northwest are truly majestic. The miles and miles of mountaintop ice fields, waterfalls, salmon-filled streams and glaciers of Alaska are the most incredible masterpieces of nature that I’ve ever seen.

The week’s most precious moment occurred when our captain negotiated the ship to within a few hundreds yards of John Hopkins Glacier inside Glacier Bay. Everyone on the ship was silent as the massive ice structure popped with new cracking, hoping to see a large chunk calve into the cold waters below. When it finally happened, a chorus of awes was heard echoing across the water. My friend’s wife, in the balcony next to me, turned my way with tears in her eyes.

"That was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Almost spiritual."

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uniworld river cruise kathy hirstI recently had the wonderful opportunity of taking one of the premier river cruise experiences, Uniworld River Cruises. I have sold many Uniworld Cruises to my clients but had never had the opportunity to enjoy this product myself. We chose the Burgundy and Provence itinerary though Southern France. We arrived via Amsterdam in Marseilles. Uniworld transferred us in a very nice small luxury van to Avignon where we were met at the dock by a steward who checked us in. There were no long lines involved, which was welcome after a long flight a car ride. Our stateroom was a bit small but I realized that this was due to the very large, pillow top king mattress. Most river cruises I have taken have smaller, very firm beds so this was very welcome since I love a good night sleep. Even though our stateroom was small it was very well laid out and had lots of storage either in large drawers, closets or under the bed.

Our evening was a briefing by the very lively cruise director Tania who told us about our week, excursions, the ship and what we could expect. The following day we were treated to a wonderful tour of Arles. This is a beautiful town with an amazing coliseum and lots of beautiful architecture and shops featuring local Provencal pottery and linens. That afternoon we were given free time to explore Tarascon and the stunning castle.

The next day we were back to Avignon to tour the town and see the Pope’s place. The tour was very captivating and the history of the palace and town was enthralling. That afternoon we were able to take a kayak ride down the Gardon River. It was a very hot day and this was extremely welcome. The scenery around the river was incredible with families enjoying the last of summer on the banks. Cruising under the roman aqueducts was so scenic.

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Recently I had the opportunity to sail on the beautiful “Regal Princess”, doing the Baltic Sea itinerary. The ship, activities and ports were amazing.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – Venice of the North, Copenhagen was founded during the 12th century, A very charming city with 500 year old gabled houses, several beautiful castles and palaces. Best of all, wander thru “Tivoli Gardens, one of Europe’s most celebrated pleasure gardens. Denmark is one of the most safest countries in the world.

OSLO, NORWAY – Beautiful, clean, sophisticated, yet cozy charming, with a blend of 19th-20th century buildings, woodcarvings, bright frescoes and wide avenues dotted with public squares and parks. Oslo is surrounded by hills and lakes which makes this city a paradise for winter and summer sports. Don’t miss the Vigeland Sculpture Park with over 200 human life-cycle sculptures.

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