Tag Archive | Independent Tours

We Will Show you the World…

 Thank you for visiting our blog: a great place to search for deals and get ideas!                 While we  specialize  in  small ships cruises, river and Barge cruises, upscale Vacations, and Tours,  we service our clients’ every need.  Our core business is all about repeat clients and  referrals.   Most clients start their vacation search on the internet and we think that’s a good thing.  The web is a great source of information.  When it’s time to plan your trip, however, then leave it to the Professionals.   One call and we’ll do it all …

 

France Uncovered

By: Gregory Hall and Collette Vacations

There is a reason France is the most visited country in the world. See for yourself why… you won’t be disappointed.

Paris. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a visit to Paris will leave you speechless. The city of lights and love, she is also the capital of the country largely considered to be the philosophical cradle of the Enlightenment. Paris is not only to be savored in the springtime, but summer, fall and winter as well. A quick ride in a Parisian cab or on the Métro will bring you to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacré Cœur, the Seine River’s famous left bank, the Hôtel des Invalides where Napoleon is entombed, the Galleries Lafayette or Printemps (or other famous Parisian shops) … the list goes on and on.

The dining: cafés, brasseries, and restaurants offer everything from basic fare to exquisite gastronomy – in the fancier restaurants, it would seem the chef moonlights as a poet, adding to the charm of the experience.

Normandy. Famous for its cider, Calvados brandy, and cheese, to most North Americans, it is better known for the pivotal moment in history that saw the Allied forces break through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to open the Western Front in WWII. My first visit to Normandy started at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. I remember watching the early morning fog rise revealing perfectly arranged Carrara marble headstones shone like white beacons over the beaches the men they commemorate had helped liberate. I later learned why those grave markers are so white: one of the cemetery’s French custodians takes the time to paint all 9,387 of them each year. The whole area around the landing beaches is a living memorial to those valiant soldiers.

The Loire Valley. Cradle of the French monarchy for centuries, this part of France is where the magnificent chateaux of France can be visited. Chenonceau, once seized by King Henry II, was given to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After his death, Henry’s wife, Catherine de Medici, had Diane expelled and maneuvered a way to finally call Chenonceau her own. Astonished visitors marvel at the gardens, and this summer party house of royals and nobles, built over the river Cher. Not to be outdone, the chateau in Amboise is also a sight to see, with its secret underground passage. Built by Francis I, the passage connects Amboise to the Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo Da Vinci, who had been invited by the king to France and notably brought with him a painting of a certain smiling lady that now resides in the Louvre.

Provence. The inspiration of artists like Cézanne and Picasso. Many artists and actors have frequented Provence, renowned for the way its striking sunlight bathes its perched villages in a warm glow, the fragrant fields of lavender that blush a purple radiance in mid-summer, the olive groves and their related oil and tapenade, and the easy-going nature of its residents, many of whom gather to play long, relaxing games of pétanque under the shade of plane trees. The Mistral wind blows here, necessitating that many of its church towers be built with open wrought-iron campanile, as well as the planting of cypress hedgerows to protect crops and vineyards.

The French Riviera. This breathtaking area opens up France’s Côte d’Azur, where the rich and famous have been coming since the late 19th century for its Mediterranean climate, movie and music festivals, and Europe’s oldest principality in Monaco. Stone dolmens recall this area’s Paleolithic history, and its flower fields are the raison d’être for famous perfumeries like Fragonard in Grasse. Rénoir, Matisse, Chagall, Van Gogh, and Picasso all lived here, along with royalty from around Europe, and who can forget the fairytale marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainer III.

Contact R and B International Travel and discover France Uncovered.

Gregory Hall, one of our seasoned Tour Managers, a citizen of France, who speaks fluent English, French and German, grew up in West Berlin, Germany, and now lives in Michigan. He spends much of his time guiding tours through Europe – and wants to take you on a virtual tour of some of his favorite parts of France!

Honeymoons

 

Honeymoons too often take a backseat to the arrangements and plans of the actual wedding, but you owe it to yourself to give honeymoon planning greater and more careful attention. After all, while the wedding is mainly for your family and friends, the once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon that follows is a private getaway for you and your new spouse to celebrate your marriage. Though you may spend a portion of your vacation relaxing and reflecting on this major life change, the honeymoon is most of all an opportunity to enjoy being a newlywed, spending quality time with your new spouse, and experiencing a romantic and exciting getaway.

Honeymooners have endless options. Following months of wedding planning, couples often retreat to a luxurious resort that caters to their every need, while others trek to an adventurous escape from their day-to-day lives. Whether a beach vacation, a safari, or a ski trip, the honeymoon should reflect your joint personality and wishes.

Keep in mind that perfect honeymoons don’t just happen, and planning requires thoughtfulness, patience, careful attention to details, and a lot of decision-making along the way. The more homework you do before leaving for your honeymoon, the more you will enjoy your special vacation.

Top Honeymoon Hotspots

Your honeymoon can be the most romantic trip you’ll ever take, and it can also be a lot of fun. Look for a destination that offers everything you want. Remember that there is no “ideal” destination – the personality of you and your partner will determine where on the planet your honeymoon should be. However, the following locations traditionally are considered the greatest spots to honeymoon and top many newlyweds’ travel wish-lists.

  • Hawaii – Hawaii remains the number one destination for honeymoons year after year because of its romantic sunsets, magnificent beaches, and luxurious hotels. Visitors to Hawaii can also conveniently hop from island to island to experience just about any climate and adventure under the sun, including kayaking, mountain climbing, surfing, scuba, and even hiking in a rainforest.
  • Mexico – From the Yucatan peninsula to the Pacific Coast, Mexico is all at once romantic, adventurous, and laidback. A collection of spectacular land- and seascapes larger than almost anywhere else in the world, reasonably priced attractions and an easy-to-reach location make a Mexico vacation hard to beat. Honeymooners can enjoy a wide variety of activities, including eco-tourism, water sports, horseback riding, diving, and touring ancient Mexican ruins.
  • The Caribbean – The islands of the Caribbean have long been favorites for honeymooners. While we mention a few below by name, your travel consultant can assist you with destination materials that provide a wealth of information for helping you choose the perfect spot.
    • Bahamas – With over 700 separate islands, you’ll find numerous resorts with all the water sports, pampering, night clubs, fine dining, casinos, and beaches you could possibly want. Many amazing islands in the Bahamas can also be visited easily in one trip by booking a cruise. If you’re seeking a truly romantic paradise for your upcoming honeymoon, look closely at the Bahamas.
    • Jamaica – If you’re eager to just get away and relax after hectic wedding planning, Jamaica is the place to be. From the famous reggae music festivals to the beautiful shorelines, it’s easy to get into the Jamaican state of mind. Whether you stay on the island in a luxurious resort or simply visit for a couple of hours on a cruise ship stop, Jamaica’s culture of fun, sun, and romance will make you feel welcome.
    • Bermuda – Bermuda is a truly sightseer’s delight, and couples are encouraged to rent a moped or take public transportation to see all the sights. Offering an array of ocean activities and charming historic towns, Bermuda provides a romantic and mysterious escape to an era of class and grace.
    • U.S. Virgin Islands – Replete with sailing, snorkeling, sports fishing, and tons of shopping, honeymooners have long been attracted to the Virgin Islands for an active escape.

     

  • Continental U.S. – Many couples are drawn to distinctive locations throughout the United States. California, one of the most popular, offers marvels ranging from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to the glamour of Hollywood. Las Vegas, Nevada, always draws a lively crowd. Its incredible range of world-class hotels, casinos, entertainment, and shopping venues gives honeymooners an exciting vacation from home. New York, Florida and Colorado are also very popular destinations for honeymooners, as they offer fun and romantic tourist attractions that welcome visitors year-round. Traveling within the U.S. is an excellent opportunity to experience the unique diversity for which America is world-renowned.
  • Europe – Europe has always been high on honeymooners’ lists, in part because of the distinctiveness of each country and the many destinations couples can visit during their trip. From the majestic views of the snow-covered Alps to the Eiffel tower in Paris, Europe is filled with unforgettable history and romance.
  • Tahiti and the South Pacific – These islands are becoming an increasingly popular destination for couples (including celebrities) seeking an exclusive honeymoon experience and are the closest most ever get to a private island retreat. The sheer beauty and history of the land and the people allows couples to participate in awe-inspiring eco-tourism and cultural activities. Many also opt to stay in traditional style burés, some of which are directly over the water, to take advantage of the unparalleled views.
  • Australia and New Zealand – If you’re looking for outdoor adventure both above and below the ocean bed, you’ll love the exceptional beauty of these lands. From snorkeling and scuba diving to bush treks and mountain climbing, honeymooners won’t find any more high-energy activities than these locations offer.

Planning a Hassle-Free Honeymoon

If you and your fiancé are just beginning to think about your honeymoon plans, a good place to start is agreeing on a specific destination. A recommended way to do this is to sit down together and compile a list of your top dream vacations. Choosing a destination and an itinerary that really works for your personality is also key. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at this stage, since you have so many possibilities, but you can narrow down the options by deciding if you’d prefer a tropical beach, big city, or a place known for adventure travel. Also consider if you want warm or cool weather, a distant land or someplace closer to home, a vibrant location with people to meet, or seclusion, where it will just be the two of you. Speak with your travel consultant about all of your honeymoon ideas, and consider including adventurous and unusual travel themes along with more popular options like mass market cruises and all-inclusive resorts.

Also remember that you may need to psychologically accommodate to your new status as a partner and a spouse, and with proper planning and smart travel choices, you can enhance your opportunity to bond without undue stress over logistics or other complications. Your travel consultant can always develop a customized honeymoon that provides not just a vacation experience, but a real journey for the two of you set in a locale that reflects your personalities and values.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, your next step is to make a budget. Find out if you have any frequent flier miles or hotel discounts you can use towards your trip. Also think about putting all the wedding expenses on a single credit card that accumulates frequent flier miles for the honeymoon. The cost of your honeymoon will, of course, be the sum total of the accommodations, activities, transportation, meals, tips, souvenirs and other travel costs. Be candid with your travel consultant to make your honeymoon economically comfortable.

When considering your budget, know that all-inclusive resorts take care of most of your meals, athletic equipment, and tips. Some also include liquor and bar costs as well as resort-specific activities. These arrangements vary widely, however, with some including roundtrip airfare, so find out exactly what is and is not included in the price.

Also note that honeymoon packages offered by hotels, airlines, and wholesalers typically include special perks for newlyweds that you can’t get with standard packages. Your travel consultant will know to ask your hotel if special honeymoon packages are available.

Once you have a budget, decide when to go and for how long. Figure out how many vacation days you have and how many you’ll need before the wedding to take care of odds and ends at the last minute. Decide whether you want to leave immediately after your wedding, or wait a few days or weeks to give yourself more time to focus on the trip. If you don’t have very many vacation days, you may want to take a “mini-moon” the weekend of the wedding and then a longer, second honeymoon on your first anniversary. It’s usually a good idea to give yourself at least a day or two to continue the honeymoon after returning home, before you head back to work and settle into your everyday life.

Don’t forget to research the travel documents you might need for your honeymoon as well. U.S. citizens need valid passports for all air and sea travel to and from Europe, Asia, and Australia. As of January 8, 2007, passports are also required for travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Your travel consultant will assist with all of the necessary documentation, including documentation of your recent name change!

Be diligent about keeping copies of all correspondence, confirmation numbers, and invoices given to you by your travel consultant. Double- and triple-check all the plans to be sure that your departure and return dates are correct. Inform everyone along the way that you’re traveling on your honeymoon, so you don’t miss out on complimentary perks. Stay organized by creating a folder or notebook where you can keep all this information.

One last bit of advice: Have realistic expectations throughout the course of planning and taking your honeymoon trip. While it’s only natural for you to want your honeymoon to be perfect, bear in mind that travel is inherently an adventure. Approach your honeymoon with an open mind, and prepare to have plenty of laughs along the way.

There really are endless possibilities for honeymooners. Whether you decide to go on an exotic foreign expedition or visit a nearby luxurious resort, start planning early to make sure you’re right where you want to be… and then Bon Voyage!

Contact R and B International Travel today to start planning your Honeymoon.

 

Beer, Pub and Brewery Tours

 

When deciding on a short holiday or tour, it can be hard to choose between soaking up a destination’s culture and going out to have fun and party. If you like beer, you can do both at once. Beer has never been more popular than now, and brewery and pub tours give you an opportunity to enjoy great companionship while discovering an area’s culture and history. Beer festivals and tours are becoming increasingly popular additions to a holiday, especially with groups of friends who travel together. You no longer need to separate your holiday time into culture and entertainment. Beer tours come in many forms, from tasting exotic brews at a small pub to tours of large breweries, or even full scale beer festivals. Whatever you fancy trying, there is something to tickle the taste buds of all beer enthusiasts.

No visit to many of the great cities of the world would be complete without visiting their famous and historic pubs. The culture surrounding pubs is a tradition in many countries and an important part of the social order. Pubs are often community meeting places where all manner of politics, religion and important matters are vigorously debated.

Although you might love beer and have sampled most varieties, you may not have much of an idea about the processes involved and the history behind a manufacturer. Beer and brewing has helped in part to shape many societies across the world. Beer and pub tours can provide a solid history lesson, which is why many tour operators also offer literary pub tours, walking tours and day tours centered around a city’s pub culture. You will also, of course, get to try some great beer and food along the way. Whether you are mad about beer or just enjoy the odd pint, a beer tour or holiday is for you if:

  • You like to try new beers and would like to learn more about the brewing process
  • You enjoy socializing with new people and having a good time
  • You want to experience the atmosphere and traditions of a country or city, including their food and drink
  • Oktoberfest sounds like heaven

You can choose from so many different types of beer tours and holidays: whether you want to take a few days and relax while sipping a new drink in a pub or you want to really learn about how beer is made and the culture and history behind it, making a pub or brewery crawl part of your holiday is the stuff of many a great travel tale.

Wherever you go, have your travel consultant check into organized pub and beer tours as well as find the best areas to sample the local flavor. In either scenario, your agent should be able to find excellent travel opportunities and rates to help simplify your choices. Packaged prices for hotel accommodations and airfares are typically available to travel consultants at discounted rates through tour operators. In addition, your agent will have plenty of resources to help make your time on vacation efficient and well spent.

The many types of beer tours cater to a variety of different needs, budgets and appetites. If you are short on time and want to tour an area, then a simple pub or bar tour where you can sample the local products is a great way to get started. You can organize these tours yourself by doing research, or just strolling from one place to another. Many tour operators provide beer and pub tours on a designated tour route. One of the most famous and legendary of these tours is the Monopoly Pub Tour in London, which allows you to see all the major sites on the London Monopoly board, while sampling local beer products in the UK capital’s most famous drinking establishments.

Many cities in Europe have organized “pub crawls” (“pub” being a shortened form of the term “public house”, indicating a tavern licensed to sell alcohol) that use the atmosphere of the pubs as a way to meet new friends and introduce patrons to new bars. Examples include the FunkyParis pub crawl in Paris and the FunkyRiviera pub crawl in Nice. Amsterdam sports the Ultimate Party pub crawl. Not to be outdone, the Germans have their New Berlin and New Munich Pub Crawls. But the most famous of all the pub crawls may be the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, themed around the haunts of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Brendan Behan. These highly festive occasions are led by professional actors performing the works of the writers in various pub venues around the city.

If you are looking for something with a bit more information regarding the history of beer itself, then taking a brewery tour is a great option. Tours of breweries can be found across the world, providing a behind the scenes look at the beer making process. Whether you want to see how your favorite beer is made or want to try great beer straight from the source, then a brewery tour is the perfect answer. From tours of the massive Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis USA to tiny independent breweries in the UK, Europe or Sydney much can be learned – and tasted!

One of the best examples of a brewery tour is in Belgium at the Brasserie d’Achouffe. This brewery is one of the finest in the world and is best known for its La Chouffe beer, which was once named ‘Best Beer of the 20th Century’. While not all breweries offer beer tours, most of the famous names in the world of beer will offer some sort of tour, usually with a historical briefing on the making of the product followed by a tasting session. Many tours also provide food in the form of a special restaurant or buffet, often with a beer-themed menu. Organizing these tours is relatively simple, and your travel consultant can provide you with information on which brewers offer the tours.

If these tours are not enough to quench your curiosity, one way to combine a holiday with beer is to go to one of the numerous beer festivals around the world. These festivals are a celebration of all things to do with beer and run for days or even weeks. You can soak up the city atmosphere while trying beers from all around the world. You have some really amazing beer festivals to choose from, including the Great British Beer Festival and the Oregon Brewer’s festival. However, the best and largest of all the festivals has to be the ultra-famous Oktoberfest in Munich. This beer extravaganza is truly heaven for all lovers of beer, and with Munich as a backdrop, it doesn’t get much better. The first Oktoberfest occurred in 1810 to honor the marriage of Prince Ludgwig to Princess Therese. If you missed that one, no fear, the celebration is held each year and is one of the premier beer events anywhere.

If you really want to make beer part of your holiday, then take a trip to one of many historic cities that are famous for their beer. These cities not only offer some of the best beer and pubs around, but also give you the opportunity to see wonderful architecture and absorb the city’s culture. One of the best cities to visit is London, with over 6,000 pubs serving a variety of local real ales, plus beers from all around the world. Combine this with stunning architecture and world-class attractions and you have a heady mix for any beer-loving culture vulture.

Other great cities to visit include the Guinness-filled city of Dublin and the historic beer meccas of Prague Munich, and Boston.

Deciding on when and where to go can be a difficult decision, and your decisions will focus on how much of your vacation you want to be centered around beer. If you simply want to go on a few brewery tours or are curious about beer, then negotiating the crowds of Munich during Oktoberfest might not be the best idea. Instead, go where you can experience as little or as much beer culture as you want. Destinations like Dublin, London or Brussels are ideal and permit others in your party to indulge in plenty of other activities like shopping or sightseeing. Ask your travel consultant about “shoulder” and “low season” rates. During off-peak travel times, rates are almost always available at a sizeable discount over high season. The crowds are fewer, the prices better and the atmosphere in many destinations is much more intimate. However, the trade-off in weather and climate may be more than enough for you to decide to do your beer and pub studies during peak travel times.

Although many beer tours will allow younger people on tours of their facilities, there are often prohibitions on the consumption of any alcohol by persons under the age of 18. Also, be aware that while the US has a higher drinking age than most of Europe, this is not universally the case. Generally, holidays centered on beer festivals are only suitable for adults. If you intend on visiting breweries and pubs and you have children, definitely ask your travel agent to help you consider the proper logistics for your visit.

Need we suggest to a worldly person such as yourself that one of the first considerations of a beer and pub tour is that you drink in moderation? Overdoing it on the first day will only reduce your enjoyment of the holiday, as well as damage your health and potentially your relationship with any non-drinking traveling companion. Beer outside the United States often contains a higher alcohol concentration, so enjoy in moderation or suffer the consequences! But with that in mind…

So many beers, so little time.

Let R and B International Travel plan your Beer, Pub and Brewery Adventure.

60 Second Geography – Spain

Worldwide, Spain ranks as the number two tourism destination. In the early 1950’s German, French and British tourists discovered the inexpensive and lovely beaches of Spain. The rest of Europe soon followed, along with Americans. Many opt for self-drive vacations, facilitated by excellent road infrastructure. The rail system is also well developed, though concentrated on Madrid. Independent travelers also take advantage of the paradores, government owned accommodations often situated in converted monasteries or castles.

  • Spain is the second largest country of Western Europe, with only France being larger.
  • The high plateau known as the Meseta is the predominant landform of the Iberian Peninsula, separated from the coast by the mountain ranges, or sierras.
  • The vast land mass and the mountains on the interior created great cultural diversity over the centuries with regional languages such as Galician, Basque and Catalan along side the more standard Castilian Spanish.
  • The great Pyrenees mountains in the north separate and, historically, isolated Spain from the rest of Europe.
  • Only a narrow waterway separates Spain from Northern Africa and at one time all of Spain was dominated by Islamic culture.
  • The long domination by Islam and the Moorish culture came to an end in 1492 and caused a deep resurgence of and devotion to Roman Catholicism.
  • The great Catalonian city of Barcelona is home to avant-garde artists and fashion designers. The 1992 Summer Olympics were there are brought the city great reviews.
  • The Valencia region is one of Spain’s most important agricultural areas.
  • It is in the Andalucia region where the Moorish influence can be most readily observed in the picturesque architecture of the villages.
  • The 1992 World Expo was held in Seville. Holy Week processions here are particularly well attended and travelers from all over Spain and Europe descend on the city.
  • The Costa del Sol is that region extending from Gibraltar to Adra and is the focal point for much of the European package tourism. Protected by the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges this area receives generous and warm sunshine nearly year-round.

Are you ready to discover Egypt? Contact R and B International Travel and get started.