Luxe Adventure Traveler http://luxeadventuretraveler.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Tue, 25 Aug 2015 09:06:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Italy Off-the-Beaten-Path Road Trip: Viterbo http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/italy-off-the-beaten-path-road-trip-viterbo/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/italy-off-the-beaten-path-road-trip-viterbo/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 09:05:31 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66692 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Rome. Been there. Florence. Done that. More than a couple of times, in fact. While I love Italy’s most visited cities, they can feel like overcrowded theme parks on the Fourth of July. I tossed out my Italy guide books, well all of my guide books, a long time ago and like to discover things [...]

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Italy off-the-beaten-path Road Trip

The first stop on my Italy road trip takes me to Viterbo, in Lazio

Rome. Been there. Florence. Done that. More than a couple of times, in fact. While I love Italy’s most visited cities, they can feel like overcrowded theme parks on the Fourth of July. I tossed out my Italy guide books, well all of my guide books, a long time ago and like to discover things on my own. I plotted out a list of places I was just dying to see, all of course only accessible by car, and that map turned into an epic Italy off-the-beaten-path road trip. With Tim still away, I grabbed one of the most fun people I know and Leah Travels and I set out to drive Italy’s boot.

Living in the north and having visited a lot of Italy within a four hour radius of my house, our first stop was in the province of Viterbo, part of the Lazio region about an hour north of Rome.

Civita di BagnoregioCivita di Bagnoregio

Known as the “Dying Town” because it teeters on a crumbling volcanic rock whose sides continue to erode and fall off, Civita di Bagnoregio has a population of just 15 year round determined citizens that keep the ancient town alive. Accessible only by a 1-kilometer long stone foot bridge that connects the hilltop town with its satellite town of Bagnoregio, it has managed to escape the destruction of the long list of intrusions and two World Wars.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Bells jingle from the breeze as you cross the ascending bridge to Civita di Bagnoregio

The first outlook as you begin the walk to the town is enough to leave you breathless, and the bridge itself is magical. A series of bamboo brooms along the bridge jingle from the wind tickling the bells attached to them.

There’s only one way in or out, and that’s through the Santa Maria gate which was originally cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago and decorated with a Romanesque arch in the 12th century. Once inside, it’s just Italy. Civita di Bagnoregio is the attraction.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Streets lead into thin air where former buildings fell off the crumbling rock long ago

There’s beautiful little streets where flowers cascade from the windowsills of stone houses, shops seemingly hidden away on narrow calle, and doorways that appear to open to nothing but more spectacular views of the valley. The buildings that were once there long ago fell away as the volcanic rock that supported them crumbled.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Excellent frappes and sandwiches at Antico Torchio

Leah and I walked the entire town end to end, poking our heads into this store or that. We sat for a bit at a cute cafe just off the main piazza sipping frappes, just what we need on such a hot day.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Civita di Bagnoregio’s main piazza

There’s more cats than people and there isn’t much to do in Civita di Bagnoregio but to wander and talk with the handful of locals running the handful of shops, cafes and restaurants. But this is a special place that you should go and see, because sadly one day it just won’t exist as nature continues to erode it away.

When arriving to Civita di Bagnoregio, pass the first car park and continue. You can park in the car park at the entrance to the foot bridge. Parking is metered, so be sure to have coins for the ticket machine. There is a 3 entry fee (cash only) that you pay just before the bridge.

Bomarzo Monster Park

Caucus in agony as Hercules tosses him to the ground in a defeat of evil

Bomarzo Monster Park

Leah was such a great sport just packing a bag and leaving the itinerary up to me. “So what exactly is this monster park?”, she asked on our way there. I wasn’t entirely sure myself since I couldn’t find much information about it. I’d actually come across it in a museum and there was a short documentary about the discovery of it. Larger than life stone sculptures of elephants and goulish faces were covered by years and years of overgrowth in the forest about an hour north of Rome. “Oh good,” Leah told me with a grin, “I thought we were going to a monster truck rally.”

The Parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo was commissioned by Price Pier Francesco Orsini to vent his broken heart after the death of his wife, Giulia Farnese in the 16th century. The Prince hired architech Pirro Ligorio, famous for finishing Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome after the death of Michelangelo and for Villa d’Este in Tivoli.

The garden fell in to disrepair for a couple hundred years until it was rediscovered and restored in the 1970s. The garden is still privately owned, but the family has opened it up to the public for visits.

Driving there you wonder if you’re headed in the right direction, but a few well-placed signs ensure that there is something in the forest you’re descending in to. The map provided with each of the 35 larger-than-life statues is a little hard to follow and slightly deceptive. But wandering through the strategically left overgrowth is half the fun. Just be sure to spray yourself with mosquito repellent before you go.

Bomarzo Monster Park

Picnic in L’Orco’s mouth?

A favorite of most visitors was also Leah and I’s favorite sculpture. Built right into the bedrock is L’Orco, also the name of one of the kings of the underworld. There’s an inscription around the ogre’s lips that reads: Ogni pensier vola. Meaning all reason departs, it can be attributed as a part of Dante’s inscription over the mouth of hell, “Abandon all reason ye who here enter.” Fitting since you can indeed enter L’Orco’s mouth. There’s a small cavern inside just big enough for one stone picnic table. Who dare to have lunch here?

Bomarzo Monster Park

Hannibal’s elephant holds a dead Roman soldier in his trunk

Hannibal’s war elephants reminded me of being in Northern Thailand with the vines and growth around them. The bears and the giant tortoise were other favorites.

We couldn’t help but photograph Lotta di Giganti (the wrestling giants) from every angle. The sculpture represents the battle between good and evil with Hercules, protector of the weak, standing over Caucus who stole food from the poor.

You could spend a few hours studying every detail of the monstrous sculptures and pondering the Prince’s broken heart. We were comfortably able to see the entire park in about an hour’s time, so if you only have a bit Bomarzo is still worth a stop.

Bomarzo Monster Park is open daily from 8:30am – 7pm April – October and 8:30am until sunset November – March. Entrance is 10 per adult and 8 per child 4 – 13 years of age.

We Recommend

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Villa Farinella

Stay in the 18th century Villa Farinella

Where to Stay in Viterbo

Built in the 18th century, Villa Farinella is a beautiful stately home that was built by the architect Prada. Yes, the very Prada family that today produces some of the finest in Italian fashion. Today it’s a lovely bed and breakfast located perfectly for exploring Viterbo, Bomarzo and Civita di Bagnoregio.

The villa has three rooms with en-suite bathrooms and guests share two charming sitting rooms which are also used for breakfast, the outdoor garden and, in summer, an on-site swimming pool.

Villa Farinella

The Lilac Room and the breakfast room

We stayed just one night in the Lilac Room and had a lovely, yet typical, Italian breakfast with meats, cheeses, croissants, juice, coffee and tea. There is wifi; however, it was not working until the morning we checked out due to a problem. Also note that the villa does not have air conditioning, though we weren’t terribly uncomfortable even in a heat wave.

Ristorante Tre Re

Ristorante Tre Re’s beef tagliata is one of the best I’ve had in Italy

Where to Eat in Viterbo

We didn’t find the walled town of Viterbo anything particularly special, but Ristorante Tre Re is worth venturing into town for dinner. The restaurant has been a Viterbo establishment since 1622. I highly recommend the ravioli and beef tagliata with juniper berries. Delicious!

Be sure to also touch the painting of the three kings; it’s said to bring good luck! The painting was originally outside and the American soldiers in WWII got wind that it was said to bring good luck. One even offered to purchase the painting from the restaurant owner; he declined. To evade the attempts at theft, the restaurant finally had to bring the painting inside where it remains today.

Ristorante Tre Re is located at Via Macel Gattesco 3 in the historic center of Viterbo. It is closed on Thursdays.

Our car rental was provided by Carrentals.co.uk in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Mount Etna: Europe’s Tallest Active Volcano http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/mount-etna-europes-tallest-active-volcano/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/mount-etna-europes-tallest-active-volcano/#respond Fri, 21 Aug 2015 22:41:52 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66652 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I might be a bit obsessed with volcanoes. And not just any volcanoes; its the active ones give me a real thrill. It’s why I couldn’t resist climbing Stromboli to get up close with spewing lava and why the one thing I just had to see when I visited Sicily was Mount Etna. After all, [...]

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I might be a bit obsessed with volcanoes. And not just any volcanoes; its the active ones give me a real thrill. It’s why I couldn’t resist climbing Stromboli to get up close with spewing lava and why the one thing I just had to see when I visited Sicily was Mount Etna. After all, it is the tallest active volcano on the European continent, one of Italy’s three active volcanoes and one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

When I found flights to Palermo for just €9 each way, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add another active volcano and UNESCO site to my list. Sicily is seriously lacking in tourism infrastructure though, and flying in and out of Palermo put me on the complete opposite side of the island from Mount Etna.

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Stromboli Volcano

Mount Etna played shy, but Stromboli gave me a show

It’s nearly impossible to get to Mount Etna without renting a car, so I was thrilled that Palermo Walks offers a Mount Etna and Taormina day tour. The plan was to drive up Mount Etna to 2000 meters, take the cable car up to 2500 meters and go on a jeep tour to see the spewing lava from 2900 meters.

I’ve learned that the weather in active volcanic areas is just as unpredictable as volcanoes themselves, perhaps even more unpredictable than the Northern Lights. Even though the sun was blazing when we left Palermo and for almost the entirety of the drive, it was already lightly drizzling and cloudy at the car park.

Mount Etna

A cloudy, rainy day on Mount Etna

Mount Etna is moody and the visibility cameras at the tram stationed showed that you couldn’t see a thing. It seemed that Mount Etna was going to be antisocial and shrouded in clouds. The lava fountains and pyrotechnics that I was so excited to see just weren’t going to happen. My heart sank a bit.

Mount Etna

On a clear day you can see all the way to Taormina

Even though it wasn’t worth paying to go up the tram and take the jeep tour, I wasn’t totally disappointed. My guide Giorgio and I walked around the lava field and climbed the Silvestri Craters, which originated from a massive eruption in 1892.

Mount Etna

The moon or Mount Etna?

If it weren’t for being able to see the towns rising up in the distance and the thousands of pistachio trees below, I’d thought I was back in Iceland. Or I imagine this is a bit what the moon must look like.

We Recommend

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To make the experience even more other-worldly, just as we started hiking around the second of the Silvestri Craters hail started pelting us. As little pea sized balls bounced off my arms, I moved my legs as fast as they would go.

Rifugio Sapienza Mount Etna

Pistachio pizza and a trio of cannoli at Rifugio Sapienza

We made a run for Rifugio Sapienza. Wet and cold, a hot pizza sounded fantastic for lunch. And it was! In fact, the pistachio and speck pizza was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in Italy and I’ve had a lot of pizzas. It may sound a bit weird, but eastern Sicily is the only place that they grow in Europe and the area around Mount Etna provides the perfect amount of heat and sunshine for them. I know, hard to believe when I’d been running through hail only minutes earlier. Save room for a cannoli…or three.

Still raining, it was time to throw in the towel on Mount Etna. As Giorgio told me, she’s a diva who only performs when she wants to. It wasn’t going to be that day.

We went on to Taormina for the next part of the day tour, and after failing to be wowed by Palermo, I wasn’t expecting much. Especially since it was still gray and drizzling out. But Taormina took my breath away. I can only imagine how pretty it must be on a clear, sunny day!

Taormina

The Duomo

Taormina

Taormina felt more like Greece than Italy

The town is so charming with its palazzo built by the Arabs, duomo built by the Normans, baroque fountains and Greek influences. Cute shops lined the cobbled streets and it was probably a good thing I didn’t have time to do more than window shop.

Ancient Greek-Roman Theater Taormina

Can you spot a snowy Mount Etna from Taormina’s Ancient Greek-Roman Theater?

The highlight of the all-too-short visit was the ancient Greek-Roman Theater. It’s still used today for performances, as I could see with the stage set up. Even though I didn’t have an umbrella and my hair was so wet it was dripping in to my eyes, I couldn’t tear myself away from the view. The Mediterranean sparkled in fifty shades of blue and a snow-capped Mount Etna stood majestically as a backdrop. It was nothing short of spectacular and a beautiful way to end the day tour.

Know Before You Go

BookingTips
The Mount Etna and Taormina day tour is €169 per person for a private tour for two and includes pick-up and drop-off to hotels in Palermo. Entry tickets to the Ancient Greek-Roman Theater, the Mount Etna cable car and jeep tour are not included.
  • Wear sturdy shoes like hiking boots, especially if you want to hike around on Mount Etna.
  • Bring layers as it can be quite a bit colder on Mount Etna.

UNESCO_Logo-150x150This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’ve visited here.

 

My Mount Etna and Taormina day tour was provided by Palermo Walks in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Sauternes: Bordeaux’s Sweet Wine http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/sauternes-bordeaux-sweet-wine/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/sauternes-bordeaux-sweet-wine/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:08:06 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66597 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Once upon a time there was a girl that drank Moscato with her meal. I hang my head as I admit that the girl committing that faux pas was me. In my defense, I was whatever today’s millennials would have been 15 years ago and just wanted to feel grown up drinking wine. I hadn’t [...]

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Once upon a time there was a girl that drank Moscato with her meal. I hang my head as I admit that the girl committing that faux pas was me. In my defense, I was whatever today’s millennials would have been 15 years ago and just wanted to feel grown up drinking wine. I hadn’t yet acquired a taste for wine, and so I sipped my Moscato unabashedly. When my palette grew up, I turned my nose up at all dessert wines…until I met Bordeaux’s Sauternes.

Sauternes

A misty morning in the vineyards

What is Sauternes?

The sweet French wine comes from one of the country’s most famous wine regions, Bordeaux, and is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes. The typical days with morning mists that burn off and turn into warm, dry afternoons create the perfect conditions for fostering a type of fungus that lands on the grapes and slowly turns them into something that looks like raisins on the vine.

Wait, fungus that causes grapes to shrivel up is a good thing? Yes! The fungus in the right conditions is essentially sucking the water out of the grapes while naturally concentrating their sugars and creating amazing flavor compounds. When picked at the precise right moment of noble rot, what is left behind is a grape with an intensely sweet and flavorful juice.

Chateau Myrat

Chateau de Myrat

Tasting Sauternes

The first wine outing on my Viking River Chateaux, Rivers & Wine cruise, a fantastic 8-day voyage through Bordeaux wine country and must for wine-lovers, was to a Sauternes tasting. With around 140 passengers on board, I was thrilled to see that we wouldn’t all be crowding into the same castle and tasting room.

I was in the lucky bunch to set off to Chateau de Myrat, a beautiful castle set amongst their 22 hectares of vineyards. Chateau de Myrat was classified under Napoleon III during the classification of Medoc, Sauternes and Barsac wines in 1855 as a Grand Cru of Second Growth (Deuxième Cru). In the very simplest of terms that meant I was about to try one of the best Sauternes in Bordeaux.

Chateau de Myrat

The barrel room at Chateau de Myrat

As we learned about Sauternes and its complicated production, we toured the barrel room, gardens and said hello to the peacocks and turkeys that call Chateau de Myrat home.

Wine making is always a risky business, but even more so with the production of Sauternes since it is completely reliant on the botrytis (fungus) developing in the vineyard. Some years it just doesn’t develop at all and 2012 was a particularly bad year because of all the rain. This is just one factor that makes Sauternes such an expensive dessert wine.

While I wouldn’t bat an eye at a bottle of Château Margaux fetching the price tag of over $200,000 per bottle, I was surprised to learn an 1811 bottle of Chateau d’Yquem was recently purchased for $140,000.

Touring vineyards is always a tease of anticipation and I couldn’t wait to taste the vintages. We started with the youngest, a 2011. It was very concentrated and rich; good, but nothing I felt a need to write home about.

Sauternes

A color test shows the variations in color from the 2011 and 2009 Sauternes vintages

This was my first experience with a vineyard that only produces one wine year after year. So as the glasses of 2009 were poured, the anticipation I usually feel watching the amber liquid streak down the sides of the glass just wasn’t there. But as I swirled the glass and the aromas were released, I realized that this wine may have the same name but it was something entirely different. The flavors were like layers, unfolding one by one. This was spicy. This is could see myself enjoying with a cheese plate.

Finally we tasted a 2006, the sweetest of the three vintages and declared the least favorite by nearly our entire group. Great vintages arrive about once a decade and there was no denying that 2009 had been a great year.

Chateau de Myrat

One of the resident peacocks sending us off

That night back on the ship I did not turn down the Sauternes that was offered with the afternoon dinner cheese plate.

Know Before You Go

Getting ThereViking River Cruise
Chateau de Myrat is open for visits and tastings and is located in Barsac, about 45 kilometers from Bordeaux. The chateau is best reached by car.
Wine tasting at a Sauternes chateau is an included excursion on the Viking River Cruise Chateaux, Rivers & Wine.

My Chateaux, Rivers & Wine cruise was provided by Viking River Cruises in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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10 Things to Know Before Driving in Italy http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/driving-in-italy/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/driving-in-italy/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 09:18:31 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66564 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Driving in Italy isn’t the scary and crazy endeavor that Hollywood (or sometimes fellow travelers) make it out to be. As a six year car owning resident of Italy, I realized just how different my adopted country’s laws of the road are when Leah Travels and I embarked on an epic road trip around the [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Driving in Italy isn’t the scary and crazy endeavor that Hollywood (or sometimes fellow travelers) make it out to be. As a six year car owning resident of Italy, I realized just how different my adopted country’s laws of the road are when Leah Travels and I embarked on an epic road trip around the entire boot. Leah kept telling me she’d wished she known about this or that when she rented a car in Italy a few months before, so I’ve compiled these 10 things to know before renting a car and driving in Italy:

Driving in Italy

Putting the miles on this brand new Mercedes from Carrentals.co.uk on our road trip around Italy

1. You need an International Driver’s License.

This is one the top question I get. Well, technically it is “Do I need an IDL to rent a car in Italy?” No, many car rental companies won’t require to see your IDL in order to rent you a car. Like so many things in Italy, the law is long, confusing and in Italian. The important thing to know though, is that the law for American tourists driving in Italy DOES require that you have an IDL. If you are pulled over, which you very well may be even if you’re not doing anything against the law (see number 2), if you do not have an IDL or an official translation, you risk a fine of 78 up to 311.

Getting an IDL or IDP is really easy and only costs $15, so there’s no reason to risk not having it. Just print out this application form from AAA and visit their nearest office with two passport photos, your application, your valid US driver’s license and your payment. Congratulations! You will receive your IDL on the spot.

If you don’t have access to a AAA office, you can mail in your application with two passport photos each signed on the back, a copy front and back of your valid US driver’s license and a check or money order for $15. Mail it to this address. It takes 4-6 weeks to receive it when submitting your application by mail.

2. Don’t ignore the Lollipop Guild

The Lollipop Guild may exist in Munchkin Country in the Wizard of Oz, but don’t expect the Italian version to hand out lollipops to welcome you to Italy. No, here in The Boot residents and expats like me know that a policeman sticking out his lollipop (actually called a paletta del poliziotto) means you better stop.

To anyone who doesn’t live here, that red circle on a stick might go unnoticed. Or you might just brush it off as another crazy Italian risking his life by walking out into oncoming traffic. And they can signal you to pull over for absolutely no reason at all other than to check that your insurance and registration are in order (and if you’re an American tourist, that you have an IDL).

Just like in the US where some criminals use lights to make them look like they are driving an unmarked car, some criminals use counterfeit lollipops. An official lollipop is red with a white reflective circle and writing to identify the municipality of the Carabineri or Polizia.

3. Italy has speed limits and loves speed cameras.

When I tell people that I live in Italy and own a car, I hear exclamations of “It must be crazy to drive without speed limits!” Folks, that is Germany and not even all of it. Italy has speed limits and they’re pretty strictly enforced.

We had a reader email us that they received a ticket in the mail and asking if it was legitimate. You better believe it is legitimate. The best part is that I’ve yet to meet an Italian that can do anything on time, but if that speed ticket isn’t returned following every instruction to a tee and on time, they start taking on additional fines for late fees. So don’t do as the Romans do; pay on time.

Like other countries, speed camera detectors are illegal and you can be fined if caught with one. Some GPS, like our Garmin Nuvi with European Maps, are very smart and know and alert you to where speed cameras are. But new cameras are added all the time, so if a lot of traffic slows down suddenly you can bet that there is a speed camera.

There are several kinds of speed cameras, so let’s take a look at each kind so that you are aware and can go home without worrying that the rental car company will send along your speeding ticket several months later.

Sistema Tutor

This is my least favorite kind of speed camera and they are only found on the autostradas (freeways). Sistema Tutor are cameras attached to the signage that crosses all the lanes of the freeway. You have two kinds of Sistema Tudor: one that photographs your car and takes the speed as you enter a monitored stretch of the freeway and again as you leave the stretch to determine your average speed, and the other that instantaneously detects your speed. The information is sent to a central server and if you were speeding, voila! you can expect a ticket in the mail.

Italy fixed speed camera

The fixed cameras are usually orange in towns and gray on autostradas

Fixed Roadside Cameras

Another kind of speed cameras are fixed cameras on the roadside and these can be found in both towns and on the autostrada. They take a picture of you if you’re speeding from both the front and the back and send the information to a central server so that your speeding ticket can be mailed off to you.

Speed Traps

We very rarely see them with all the fixed cameras and Sistema Tutor, but Italy does also use good old fashioned polizia or carabinieri that decide to set up in a somewhat hidden spot and use a radar gun or mobile speed camera to clock your speed. Often times, oncoming motorists will signal that a speed trap is coming up by flashing their headlights at you.

4. Never, ever pass on the right.

If the road has multiple lanes going in the same direction, like on the autostrada, the left lane is for passing only. If you’re not actively passing other vehicles, move other to the rightmost lane. If someone behind you is flashing their lights, it means you’re in their way; move over to the right. Passing on the right is absolutely forbidden because it is believed to cause accidents. Passing on the right actually isn’t done anywhere in Europe.

5. Use your turn signal.

Italy is a culture that religiously uses turn signals. If you don’t, you’re just asking for an accident to happen.

6. You can’t make a right turn on a red light.

In the US, unless indicated that it is not okay, you can make a right turn on red. So naturally, you might think that is okay in Italy. You would be wrong. Though Italy has far fewer red lights than roundabouts, there are red lights and it is illegal to make a right turn on red. And remember how Italy loves its’ speed cameras? It loves red light cameras too.

7. Fines are paid on the spot.

If you are pulled over for committing some sort of infraction like speeding or running a red, you’ll have to pay your fine on the spot. In cash. If you don’t have enough cash on you, the polizia or carabinieri will kindly escort you to the nearest bank or ATM so you can withdraw the funds. Ask me how I know…

8. You must drive with your headlights on.

Even on the sunniest of days, the law requires you to drive with your headlights on outside of urban areas. This means always drive with your headlights on while driving on the autostrada.

Road Safety Vest

Rental cars should come with a road safety vest or you can purchase this one for $9.99

9. Be sure to sport your fashionable reflective vest.

If you have to get out of the car on a roadway for any reason, you must be wearing a reflective vest. This is so that other motorists can easily see you and avoid hitting you.

10. Cellphones can only be used with hands free devices.

Northern Italians mostly abide by this law; Southern Italians mostly don’t abide by this law. But you especially need to be alert when driving in Italy and I strongly suggest you pull off safely to the side of the road or in to a rest stop to use the phone. If you must use a cell phone while driving, this bluetooth hands free device works with many of today’s smartphones.

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Our car rental was provided by Carrentals.co.uk in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article also contains affiliate links. When you purchase anything on Amazon through our affiliate site, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. It just helps us keep things running here at Luxe Adventure Traveler!

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The Wine Lover’s Guide to Paris http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/wine-lovers-guide-to-paris/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/wine-lovers-guide-to-paris/#respond Wed, 12 Aug 2015 20:40:44 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=65159 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne. These are the magical words that elicit dreams of corks popping and the aromatic scents of black cherry, vanilla and spice. Naturally, these are the regions that come to mind when planning a wine tasting trip to France. You might be surprised to know that you can combine a French wine tasting [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne. These are the magical words that elicit dreams of corks popping and the aromatic scents of black cherry, vanilla and spice. Naturally, these are the regions that come to mind when planning a wine tasting trip to France. You might be surprised to know that you can combine a French wine tasting with a trip to the City of Light. And I don’t mean by just buying a bottle at a wine store and picnicking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower (though that is a fabulous option). I’ve rounded up some of the city’s top wine experiences in this wine lover’s guide to Paris. After all, as the French say: “La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin.”

Clos MontmarteClos Montmartre

When a follower tweeted me about a secret vineyard in the heart of Paris, I just knew that I had to find it. It’s Clos Montmartre and it’s actually not hard to find at all. The vineyard just isn’t on the well-trodden path to Paris’ most famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower and The Louvre. It’s tucked away on a hillside in the shadow of Sacré-Coeur and just a few minutes walk from the infamous Moulin Rouge.

You might be surprised to know that long before Paris became the bustling City of Light, it was planted with grapevines. The Romans had built a temple here in Montmartre dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine. Fast forward to the 12th century and a Benedictine monastery was built in this spot and the nuns operated its wine press. Unfortunately that monastery was destroyed in the French Revolution, but Clos Montmartre was spared.

It went on to become a church owned vineyard and supplied wine to the local cabarets of Pigalle, before it was nearly destroyed from the phylloxera outbreak and urbanization in the 20th century. A group of local artists couldn’t bear to have Paris’ vineyard disappear forever and petitioned the government to give them the land. They replanted the vineyard in 1933 and Clos Montmartre has been producing wine ever since. 1500 bottles annually, to be exact.

The wine isn’t particularly good, but “decent enough” by Parisian standards. It’s more of a collector’s item. Each year the labels are designed by local artists and the wine is auctioned off for €45 per bottle with the proceeds going to local children’s charities during the annual Fête des Vendanges, which has been celebrated every harvest (except during WWII) since the vineyard’s replanted grapes were harvested in 1934.

The best time to visit Clos Montmartre is in October during the annual Fête des Vendanges. The rest of the year it is difficult, though not impossible to visit. Visits with a tasting can be arranged by the Montmartre Tourist Office and is only available for groups of 20 or more.

Clos Montmarte is located at Rue des Saules. The Fête des Vendanges is October 7-11, 2015. To arrange a group visit (only for groups of 20 or more) to Clos Montmarte, email visite@montmartre-guide.com.

Musee du Vin

The museum has its own wine chateau in Toulouse and you can purchase bottles in the gift shop

Musée du Vin

The queue for the Louvre might snake practically to the Arc de Triomphe, but you’ll practically have Paris’ Musée du Vin to yourself. In fact, on my first there was only one other person there and it was so blissfully quiet that I nearly forgot that the Eiffel Tower was practically outside the door.

Much like how Clos Montmartre came in to existence, monks built an abbey on the hill above the banks of the Seine and cultivated vineyards here in the 15th century. The wine they produced was quite popular with King Louis XIII. The religious order and the abbey itself were destroyed during the French Revolution, but the old cellars remained. They were rediscovered in the 1950s and served as the wine cellars for the Eiffel Tower restaurants before becoming the Musée du Vin in 1984.

More than two thousand years of wine-making expertise lead to the development of France’s world-famous wines and those two thousand years come to life in the Musée du Vin‘s collection of tools and artifacts.

Musee du Vin

Traditional French cuisine is served in the 15th century cellar

The museum also has a restaurant and this is no ordinary museum cafeteria style restaurant. Open for lunch, it has a menu of traditional French dishes and sommeliers can make the perfect pairing recommendations. With more than 200 wines on the wine list, you’ll definitely want the sommelier’s suggestions.

Wine tastings and other wine activities are also available and the museum has various wine courses including everything from beginner tastings to wine and chocolate pairings every Saturday.

Musée du Vin is located at 5 Square Charles Dickens on Rue des Eaux. The closest metro station is Passy. The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am – 6pm. General admission to the museum is €10 per person. Tastings are €5 per glass. The restaurant is open exclusively for lunch from 12pm – 3pm and reservations are required.

De Vinius Illustribus

De Vinius Illustribus’ wine cellar dates from 1636

De Vinius Illustribus

There are no shortage of tasting rooms and wine bars in Paris, but De Vinius Illustribus is truly a special place. Owner and wine expert Lionel Michelin personally conducts all of the wine tastings at his quaint 17th century wine cellar in the heart of the 5th arrondissement, one of the oldest districts of the city.

Lionel, a lawyer and wine collector, started out by selling his private collection to a few discerning customers. He carefully selects all of the wines in his impressive collection and he proudly showed some of the most interesting wines he’s acquired. His cellar has everything from €15 bottles perfect for opening with dinner later that night to extraordinary vintages priced at €10,000 and meant for a truly special occasion.

De Vinius Illustribus

The Moments Around Wine tasting includes 2-3 wines and bread and cheese

De Vinius Illustribus offers private wine tastings by appointment only and Lionel and his wife, Dominique, work with their clients before hand to design a personalized experience. I left it to Lionel to select a variety of French wines for my tasting and I was glad his selections forced me out of my usual wine comfort zone. If only I’d had more room in my suitcase to bring home some of the bottles from my tasting!

De Vinius Illustribus is located at 48, rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève. Daytime and evening wine tasting appointments are available 7 days per week by appointment only.

We Recommend

Wine Wednesday: Tips for Packing Wine in Luggage

L'Oiseau Blanc

Not only do you have a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower, but you can see this replica of L’Oiseau Blanc.

L’Oiseau Blanc

Head to the rooftop terrace for a glass of wine at the L’Oiseau Blanc at The Peninsula Paris. Not only do you have a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower, but you can see their life-size replica of L’Oiseau Blanc. The bi-plane disappeared in 1927 while attempting to make the first transatlantic flight from Paris to New York and compete for the Orteig Prize.

The menu has a nice selection of white, rosé and red wines and glasses are actually quite affordable ranging from 3.50 to 7.50. Of course, if you want the most coveted table in town, the now infamous Table 17, you’ll need to book it at least a month and advance and book it for a meal.

L’Oiseau Blanc is located at 19 Rue de Rome. The bar and terrace is open nightly from 6pm – 1am.

Hotel Napoleon ParisHotel Napoleon

Located in the prestigious 8th arrondissement and steps away from the Arc de Triomphe, I can hardly leave out the lovely Hotel Napoleon in a wine lover’s guide to Paris. There’s no better way to start of a trip to Paris than by popping a bottle of bubbly and toasting the City of Light. The boutique Hotel Napoleon knows this and a chilled bucket of champagne will arrive to your room almost as quickly as you do.

Hotel Napoleon is located at 40 Avenue de Friedland and rooms start at around 300 per night.

My visit to Paris was in collaboration with Paris Info with the support of Hotel Napoleon, Musee du Vin and De Vinius Illustribus in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Cittadella: A Hidden Gem in the Veneto http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/cittadella-italy/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/cittadella-italy/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 20:03:52 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66403 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I couldn’t believe I was the only one on the Medieval wall. “It’s like this most of the time,” Ilaria told me as we walked. On one hand, it was utter bliss to be away from the crowds that descend on Italy’s most popular cities in summer. On the other, it’s a shame so many [...]

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I couldn’t believe I was the only one on the Medieval wall. “It’s like this most of the time,” Ilaria told me as we walked. On one hand, it was utter bliss to be away from the crowds that descend on Italy’s most popular cities in summer. On the other, it’s a shame so many travelers miss a hidden gem like Cittadella because it isn’t in the guide books. Though you can walk it end-to-end in about 10 minutes, Cittadella has a lot to offer and makes a fantastic day trip from Venice.

Cittadella

Walking the walls above Cittadella

Walking the Walls

The Veneto, most famous for the Venetian Lagoon, is dotted with walled towns. None are so well preserved as Cittadella, located just one hour by train from Venice. And unlike the Veneto’s other walled towns like Marostica and Castelfranco Veneto, you can walk the nearly 1.5 kilometers of Medieval defensive walls for a birds-eye view of the town.

CittadellaThis area of the Veneto was settled by the Romans and in 148 BC they built the Postumia Road that connected Genoa with Aquileia. It wasn’t until the 13th century that Cittadella was built though; its location strategically chosen to defend Padua’s borders from Treviso and Vicenza. And defend it did through a series of wars that saw the town change hands from the Carraresi to the Venetian Republic and even Napoleon and the Hapsburg before finally being returned under the new Kingdom of Italy.

CittadellaThe 1461 meters of walls hug the historic center of Cittadella in an oval shape, making them some of the most unique and beautiful defensive walls in all of Europe. Just two meters thick and 14 meters high, a walk around the entirety of Cittadella isn’t for acrophobes. But if peering down upon the buildings below you doesn’t make you go weak at the knees, spending the hour or so it takes to circle the city is well worth it.

The views seems to change every couple of meters and before you know it, you’ve snapped hundreds of photos from every seeming angle.

Cittadella

The Bassano Gate

Cittadella has four gates to the city, each with  a keep, and twelve towers. You enter the walls after purchasing your ticket from the Tourist Office, which is located at the Bassano Gate. This is the most strongly fortified and important of the gates, with a system of five gates and both an exterior and interior moat. The gate faces in a direction that you could easily see enemies approaching from both Treviso and Vicenza.

Cittadella

The Captain’s House houses a small armor museum

You can also visit the Captain’s House, which houses some of the best preserved frescoes from the Malatesta family in the 16th century and a small museum that shows the progression of armor worn by soldiers that defended the city. At the Porto Padova directly across the city from Porto Bassano, you can visit the small archeological museum and climb to the roof of the Malta Tower.

Cittadella

Looking down on the old cinema

You can also exit the walls if you don’t want to walk the full circumference, but I highly recommend continuing the full way around. You can get a look at the old cinema, where the movies were projected on the wall. It’s fallen in to disrepair, though I could imagine watching a movie under the stars.

For a different perspective of the walls, you can also rental a motor or row boat and enjoy boating around the city’s exterior moat.

Where to Eat

Cittadella

Ai Bei has just two intimate tables in its wine cellar

A day up on the walls and rowing around the city is sure to leave you famished. Ai Bei is one of Cittadella’s best restaurants and you won’t want to miss the opportunity to dine in the enoteca’s wine cellar. The food is outstanding and I highly recommend the fettucine with porcini mushrooms and smoked goose. It’s keep piping hot wrapped up in paper and as you untwist the parchment, the delicious scent of the ragu wafts out. It was too hot to be hungry for a multi-course meal on my visit, but another table ordered the steaks, which were plump and juicy.

Ai Bei is located at Piazza Scalco 10 and is open for lunch Tuesday – Friday and Sunday from 11:30am – 3pm, for dinner and the bar 6pm – 2am Tuesday – Sunday. Closed Monday.

Art Galleries and More

Cittadella

The Madonna and Child at Palazzo Pretorio

Cittadella also has quite a few wonderful art galleries for being such a compact town that can be walked end-to-end in just 10 minutes time. Don’t miss a visit to the Palazzo Pretorio, the former governor’s residence which is now a foundation that organizes national art exhibitions. You can see wonderful 16th century frescoes as well as admire current exhibits, like the contemporary exhibition by Milanese artist Giovanna Ricotta that was on during my visit.

And when you’ve had enough history and culture, the city offers an impressive shopping scene with everything from Italian fashion to artisan soaps. Best of all, you won’t have to contend with the hordes of cruise ship passengers looking for souvenirs in many of Venice’s overpriced shops.

Cittadella

Photo courtesy of Turismo a Cittadella

Medieval Re-enactment

Each September,  Cittadella also hosts a Medieval re-enactment going back in time with Medieval markets, archers, games, music and special attractions like a falconry show with live birds of prey.

The Medieval re-enactment takes place on September 26 – 27, 2015 from 9am – 7pm in the historic center and outside the walls.

Know Before You Go

Getting ThereWalking the WallsWorkshops for Kids
Cittadella is easily reached from Venice on the train to the Cittadella station, just a 10 minute walk from the city center and costs about 6 each way. Check the Trenitalia website for timetables. Cittadella is also easily reached by car and there is free parking outside the city walls.
  • Guided tours are available in English and tickets for the wall walk are 5 per adult and 3 per child 4 – 17 years of age. A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is 14.
  • The walls are open Monday – Friday from 9am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm (November – March) and 2pm – 6pm (April – October) and Saturday – Sunday from 10am – 5pm (November – March) and 9am – 7pm (April – October). The last entry is 1 hour prior to closing.
  • Sunset walks are available June – August from 6pm – 8pm. The last entry is 1 hour prior to closing.
  • There are also several candle-lit night walks throughout the year and the last one for 2015 is on October 24 from 9pm – 11pm.
Cittadella organizes Medieval workshops such as othic Writing, Leather Crafting and Moulding with Clay on the first Sunday of each month from 3 – 4:30pm for families. You need a reservation and can sign up by calling the Tourist Office at +39 0499404485. The cost is €5.50 per person.

My visit to Cittadella was hosted by Turismo a Cittadella in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Falling in Love with Oysters in Bordeaux’s Arcachon http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/arcachon-oysters/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/arcachon-oysters/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 22:33:17 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66363 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I don’t know what possessed me to willingly to go on a trip to an oyster farm. Remember that scene from Friends when Phoebe is at Ross and Monica’s parents’ anniversary party and she takes the oyster and pretends to eat it while actually dropping it on the floor? Joey slips on “the giant booger” [...]

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Friends oyster sceneI don’t know what possessed me to willingly to go on a trip to an oyster farm. Remember that scene from Friends when Phoebe is at Ross and Monica’s parents’ anniversary party and she takes the oyster and pretends to eat it while actually dropping it on the floor? Joey slips on “the giant booger” before wiping it on Chandler’s coat. If I could have discreetly dropped them on the floor, I would have any time my dad or anyone else tried to get me to taste them. Until I tried the Arcachon oysters…

My Chateaux, Rivers & Wine Viking River Cruise had a few optional excursions and this one was described as: Arcachon Excursion: A Day on the Bay. We’d travel by bus to where the the Eyre River empties into the mouth of the bay known as the Arcachon Bay and learn about oyster farming. In other words, there would be lots of giant boogers proud French oyster farms would no doubt want me to throw my head back and shoot down the hatch. And they would probably be incredibly offended if I didn’t. So naturally, off went the girl who hates oysters to learn about oysters.

As the bus drove through miles of forest, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Finally arriving in the village of Arcachon, colorful cookie cutter houses straight out of a fairytale passed by. It was lovely, but I couldn’t grasp the full beauty until we hopped on a boat that took us across the bay to Cap Ferret.

Cap Ferret is a narrow strip of land between the Bay of Arcachon and the Atlantic Ocean where little fishing shacks on pylons line the beach. It’s here that a large part of France’s 130,000-ton oyster harvest is produced. As our boat skirted around the oyster farms during low tide, we saw some of the flat bottom oyster boats out collecting the day’s fresh catch.

Arcachon oysters

The only thing on the menu at Chez Yannick is oysters…and more oysters

Before long I hopped off the boat for a short walk to Chez Yannick, one of the no frills wooden oyster shacks lining the beach. The menu simply lists different kinds of oysters and their prices. Yannick himself explained, telling us that the classification system is 5 – 0, with size 5 being the smallest oyster. The biggest oysters are best used for cooking something like an oyster stuffing, which my grandma loved to make for Thanksgiving (and I always managed to hide the heaping scoop of oyster stuffing or slip it in to napkin). For eating raw, sizes 3 – 4 are best.

Arcachon oysters

Yannick effortlessly shucks oysters

He effortlessly showed us how to open the oysters with his knife and shucked a bunch of the freshest oysters you’ll ever eat. They’d been plucked from the oyster beds earlier that morning. I sat with a stellar view of the bay, a plate of freshly shucked oysters, some crusty French bread and a glass of wine.

Arcachon oysters

Oysters and wine at Chez Yannick

Yannick came over to the table and stood right by my side. “How do you like them?”, he asked with a big smile. Preparing to just gulp one down to appease my gracious host, I loosened it from the shell and gave it a generous squeeze of the fresh lemon wedges hoping to mask the taste. But I was pleasantly surprised. This was the best oyster I’d ever had in my life. “They’re delicious!”, I told Yannick. And I truly meant it.

Arcachon oysters

Oysters with a view

I was actually thrilled that some of the others in my group thought that the oysters were gross giant boogers and I gobbled up their share. I even considered buying a bag to stash in my mini-fridge in my cabin on the ship and eat later.

L'Escale Cap Feret

From right: calamari, fish and mash potatoes, lemon tart

I would have happily eaten my fill of fresh oysters and crusty bread, but the boat was ready to sail us further down Cap Ferret to L’Escale, where a seafood feast awaited us for lunch. The restaurant was packed, but everyone was speaking French and I could see that this was the place to be. The menu featured tons of fish, seafood and oysters, though our excursion had a pre-set menu for the group. We started with a grilled calamari, a type of meaty white fish accompanied by mashed potatoes with a side of garlic aioli to mix in followed and the meal was sweetly finished with the most delicious lemon meringue tart I’ve ever had.

Arcachon Oyster Farms and Dune du Pyla

Dune du Pyla peeks up behind the Arcachon oyster farms

My only regret of the Arcachon excursion was that there wasn’t time to visit the Dune du Pyla, Europe’s largest sand dune at more than 100 meters high. From my vantage point on the boat, the dune appeared to swallow up the coastline. You can actually climb up the back side and go paragliding off the top of it!

Between the delicious oysters, beautiful setting and the adventure sports like dune paragliding and kite surfing on the bay, you can bet that we’ll be back for another visit to Arcachon.

Know Before You Go

Booking
The Arcachon excursion is an optional full day excursion on Viking River Cruises’ Chateaux, Rivers & Wine and is 159 per person. It includes boat trip, oyster and wine at an oyster shack, lunch and transportation. If you are visiting Arcachon, you can also book a boat trip across the bay with Bateliers Arcachon. Check their website for the various day excursions offered and prices.

My Arcachon excursion was provided by Viking River Cruises as part of my Chateaux, Rivers & Wine cruise in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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10 Unmissable Attractions in Newcastle and North Country http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/10-unmissable-attractions-in-newcastle/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/10-unmissable-attractions-in-newcastle/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 22:08:12 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66326 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Newcastle is renowned for its nightlife scene, but this city with a mixture of Victorian elegance and urban sophistication is home to exceptional art galleries, a fantastic foodie scene, stylish boutique hotels and, of course, some of England’s best bars serving up craft brews. Some of England’s most iconic places are just short drive or [...]

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Newcastle is renowned for its nightlife scene, but this city with a mixture of Victorian elegance and urban sophistication is home to exceptional art galleries, a fantastic foodie scene, stylish boutique hotels and, of course, some of England’s best bars serving up craft brews.

Some of England’s most iconic places are just short drive or train ride away from Newcastle, making it a great base for exploring England’s North Country. And with the launch of United Airlines direct service from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Newcastle International Airport (NCL), exploring more of England just got easier.

Bamburgh Castle

Photo courtesy of Visit Britain

1. Visit Britain’s Best Castle

Spectacularly set on an outcrop overlooking the Farne Islands and Lindisfarne, Bamburgh Castle is easily one of the North Country’s most iconic buildings. It has a long history dating back to prehistoric times and was completely restored in 1900. You can tour the 14 public areas of the castle and take in collections of china, porcelain, furniture, paintings, arms and armor. You’ll probably also spot archaeologists working on the site during your visit. Or you can even get your hands dirty and take part in Bamburgh Research Project’s annual training dig program, which is open to anyone over 12 years of age and all experience levels.

Bamburgh Castle is also has its very own beach. The sand turns a stunning shade of pink at sunset, which is why the beach is one of Britain’s top 10 beaches.

Hadrian's Wall

Photo courtesy of England’s North

2. Take a Walk along Hadrian’s Wall

Built by the Roman army on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian after his visit to Britain in 122 AD, it was abandoned in the 5th century. Stretching for 73 miles in the stunning countryside, you can discover why the Romans picked this spot as a military base. There are a number of different trails from seeing the ruins in an urban setting as the Wall stretches in to Newcastle upon Tyne on the Corbridge Roman Trail or get off-the-beaten path on the Housesteads Trail. No matter which trail you choose, you’re sure to have a fantastic day out in the countryside.

Alnwick Castle

Photo courtesy of Alnwick Castle

3. Master Flying a Broomstick

You don’t have to be a kid (or have one) to be a Harry Potter fan. At Alnwick Castle you can take the ultimate photo sure to make your friends at home jealous as you zip around on your broomstick. Alnwick Castle’s resident wizarding professors give you a lesson in the very spot Harry learned to fly in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

If Harry Potter isn’t your thing, Alnwick Castle is still one of Britain’s most iconic and unique castles. You can explore the opulent state rooms, discover what lies beneath the castle’s walls, dress up as a Medieval knight and much, much more.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge

Photo courtesy of Gateshead Millennium Bridge

4. Watch the Gateshead Millennium Bridge Tilt

Some 36,000 people lined the banks of the River Tyne to watch the world’s first tilting bridge tilt for the first time on June 28, 2001. In just four and a half minutes, eight motors whirl in to action to rotate 850 tons of weight so that ships can pass beneath the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. It’s an award-winning engineering feat you won’t want to miss in action when visiting Newcastle. Check the Gateshead Millennium Bridge’s website for tilt times as they change daily.

Grainger Market

Photo courtesy of Grainger Market

5. Shop Until You Drop in Grainger Market

Grainger Market is a real piece of Newcastle history. It was the largest covered market in Europe when it was first built in 1835 and today is home to shops selling everything from fresh produce and take-away food to clothes and crafts. The market is also home to the world’s oldest Marks & Spencer store.

Literary and Philosophical Society

Photo courtesy of Literary and Philosophical Society

6. Immerse Yourself in Books and History at the Literary and Philosophical Society

Started in 1793 as a “conversation club”, the Literary and Philosophical Society is a private library. Oscar Wilde and Edith Sitwell have even lectured there. Though only members can take books out, it is open to the public for browsing and reading. Stepping inside is like stepping back into the Victorian era and you’ll enjoy sitting in the leather armchairs with a cup of coffee (or tea, this is Britain after all!) while perusing a book or the paper. There are also a number of events and concerts each month that are open to the public.

Durham

Photo courtesy of Visit Britain

7. Tour the Greatest Norman Building in Britain

Durham Cathedral is said to be the greatest Norman building in England, and probably even in Europe. Because of this and its breathtaking setting, Durham Cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Britain’s fist UNESCO sites. Saint Cuthbert, whose pilgrims would come to be healed just by being in his presence, is buried in the church. You can also climb the 325 steps of the tower for spectacular views over Durham. Of course, Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss a visit as this is another spectacular filming location and the setting where Harry sets his owl flying in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

8. Have a Night Out on the Town

You don’t have to be a club-goer to enjoy Newcastle’s nightlife, although there are plenty of bustling clubs if that is your thing. There are also cozy pubs serving up craft beer and Newcastle’s own Newcastle Brown Ale. No matter what you think constitutes a rockin’ Saturday night, you’ll find everything from comedy clubs to concert halls.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Photo courtesy of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

9. Get Cultured at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Housed in a converted flour mill, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art has a constantly changing program of exhibitions and events. With five different galleries, it’s the biggest gallery of its kind in the world. It also has a roof top restaurant with amazing, panoramic views of Tyneside. Best of all, admission is free.

Lake District National Park

Photo courtesy of Lake District National Park

10. Enjoy the Great Outdoors in the Lake District

With misty mountains and mirror-like lakes, the Lake District National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It has something from everyone from a boat trip around England’s largest lake, Windermere, to hiking miles away from anyone. If you’re adventurous, you might want to climb the Via Ferrata XTreme at Honister Mine. With cozy cottages tucked away in charming towns throughout the Lake District, you can even combine a little adventure and romance.

This post is brought to you by Visit Britain. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.

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How to Holiday on Italy’s Amalfi Coast http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/italy-amalfi-coast/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/italy-amalfi-coast/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 17:19:46 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66263 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Italy is filled with amazing ruins, museums and churches, but sometimes even the most cultured traveler wants a little sun and nothing to do but sip cocktails. That’s when you head to Italy’s famed Amafi Coast. It’s here that colorful fishing villages cling to the cliff side and cars, buses and vespas vie to get [...]

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Italy is filled with amazing ruins, museums and churches, but sometimes even the most cultured traveler wants a little sun and nothing to do but sip cocktails. That’s when you head to Italy’s famed Amafi Coast. It’s here that colorful fishing villages cling to the cliff side and cars, buses and vespas vie to get by one another on the road with 1000 bends. The honking and the plunging cliffs are stomach wrenching, but the views of the azure Mediterranean, the cool sea breeze and the incredible sea food make the traffic jams on the barely two-lane wide coastal road worth it.

Villa RufoloRavello

Ravello is my favorite of the towns on the Amalfi Coast. Set 350 meters above the other towns like Amalfi and Minori, many people never make the trek up. On one hand, it’s a shame because the views from Ravello are like no other. On the other, Ravello is a blissful retreat from the madness of tour buses and cruise ships far below.

Cannelloni at Cumpa Cosimo

Cannelloni at Cumpa Cosimo

Where to eat

Cumpà Cosimo is a rustic family-run restaurant that has regularly served the likes of some of the world’s glitterati like Jackie O. In the family for four generations now, it’s Netta Bottone that is at the helm of the kitchen. When we dined, Netta herself even delivered our second courses as she toured the restaurant to ensure all her patrons were happy. The menu changes according to whatever is in season and inspires Netta, but no matter what you try it is sure to be delicious.

We Recommend

Off the Beaten Path in Ravello

Cumpa’ Cosimo is sometimes closed on Mondays and reservations are essential. Via Roma 46, Ravello, 84010

Villa Cimbrone Ravello

Sipping Prosecco at Villa Cimbrone in Ravello

Don’t Miss

It’s no wonder that the rich and famous hole up at Villa Cimbrone. With its spectacular views over the Bay of Salerno, fabulous pool and romantic gardens, Villa Cimbrone is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Don’t miss the Terrace of Infinity for one of the most jaw-dropping views on the Amalfi Coast (the other is from Villa Rufolo).

Villa Cimbrone‘s gardens and Terrace of Infinity are open to the public daily from 9am – sunset. Admission is €7 per person. 

Conca dei Marini

Perched on a cliff not quite as high above the sparkling sea as Ravello, Conca dei Marini is another quieter of the charming fishing villages. The small village is surprisingly home to a number of the Amalfi Coast’s most beautiful buildings, monuments and artworks. You’ll even find part of the skull of St. Barnabas the Apostle here, which is one of the most important relics of the Amalfi Coast

Conca dei Marini

Seafood paccheri

Where to eat

The Calajanara Restaurant has a stunning sea view terrace open in the summer months. While you never really get a sunset on the Amalfi Coast as the sun sets behind the mountains, the sky dazzles in shades of pinks and purples. Book a table for around sunset and feast on specialties like the seafood paccheri and stuffed squid.

 Calajanara Restaurant, Via Smeraldo 35, Conca dei Marini 84010

Don’t Miss

The sfogliatella is a pastry that was invented in the 17th century at the Monastero Santa Rosa when the now luxury hotel was a monastery. While you can find the pastries throughout the Amalfi Coast, there’s no better place to try one than in the very place they came in to existence. The secret recipe the nuns created is still used today.

Amalfi

The small beach at Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi is exactly the opposite of Ravello; sitting at sea level it is the Amalfi Coast’s busiest town. It’s so small that its hard to grasp that this village was once a maritime super power and an independent republic. Once home to some 70,000 people, you can now explore Amalfi from end to end in about 20 minutes. It doesn’t make sense until you learn of the earthquake of 1343 when most of the old town and its population simply slid in to the sea.

Where to eat

Walk to Pier Darsena and look for a boat that says Santa Croce. The free boat, which operates frequently between 9am – 5pm, will whisk you to the Santa Croce restaurant just down the coast and only accessible by boat or a very long staircase down from the main road. The menu changes daily based upon the fresh fish and ingredients available that day.

Amalfi Duomo

The Duomo

Don’t Miss

Dating back to the 11th century and sitting mightily atop a staircase, the Duomo (Saint Andrew’s Cathedral) is the heart of the village of Amalfi. You can visit the interior, richly decorated in golds of the late Baroque style and be sure to descend the stairs to the crypt where a tomb holds a portion of the relics of the apostle Saint Andrew.

Cetara, Italy

Overlooking Cetara from its tower

Cetara

Cetara is so different from the tourist ladden Amalfi and the elegant Ravello. This is what all of the villages must have been like when they were all traditional fishing towns. Tourism hasn’t got its grasp on Cetara yet and its the only town remaining with a working fishing fleet. The beach has just a smattering of locals on it mid-week and its blissfully quiet.

Acqua Pazza Cetara

Tuna carpaccio with kiwi

Where to eat

In Cetara the anchovy is king. Head to Acqua Pazza with its smattering of outdoor tables with a view of the beach and small port. I’m not personally a fan of anchovies, so thankfully the menu features other fresh fish like the tuna carpaccio with kiwi that I tried. But if you are an anchovy fan, this is definitely the place to try them. The small shop also sells anchovies and an anchovy fish sauce.

Acqua Pazza, Corso Garibaldi 38, Cetara 84010

Cetara, Italy

Enjoying lemon granita on Cetara’s beach

Don’t Miss

Amalfi has the best lemons in all of Italy and on a hot day, there’s nothing better than a lemon granita. Pop in to Bar Miramare just a few meters from the beach for a granita limone.

This #SalernoC2C Amalfi and Cilento Coast trip was provided by the Confesercenti Provinciale di Salerno in partnership with To Salerno in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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8 Best Up-Close Animal Encounters http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/best-up-close-animal-encounters/ http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/best-up-close-animal-encounters/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:43:06 +0000 http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/?p=66217 Luxe Adventure Traveler

This week Cecil the Lion made news when American hunter Walter Palmer baited and killed Zimbabwe’s beloved human-loving lion illegally on private land. To say Tim and I are saddened and outraged in an understatement. We’ve been on safarai, and even if we hadn’t, we just can’t fathom how anyone could kill our majestic and [...]

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

This week Cecil the Lion made news when American hunter Walter Palmer baited and killed Zimbabwe’s beloved human-loving lion illegally on private land. To say Tim and I are saddened and outraged in an understatement. We’ve been on safarai, and even if we hadn’t, we just can’t fathom how anyone could kill our majestic and endangered species like Cecil the Lion (or the polar bear, rhino, leopard and other number of species Palmer has killed) just for a trophy on their wall.

There are lots of ways to enjoy our planet’s wildlife, but there’s no need to bring home a trophy. You don’t need it. Trust me, the memories of up-close animals encounters will be as vivid as the day you had them for the rest of your life. And if you need something to bring home (or put up on social media for bragging rights) “shoot” as many animals as you want – WITH A CAMERA. To give you a little inspiration, we rounded up the best up-close animal encounters where you can capture plenty of braggable photogenic moments.

Serengeti National ParkLions

Where to find them: Serengeti National Park

When to go: Year round

How: By vehicle

The Serengeti is vast and has plenty of food for the King of the Beasts. We saw so many lions in our five days in the Serengeti that we lost count. They were everywhere. We saw them hunting, napping, playing, climbing trees and making a little love. We even heard them roaring as they called their pride to come feast on an elephant that had died near our safari camp. Elewana maintains two permanent luxury safari camps inside Serengeti National Park (Serengeti Migration Camp and Serengeti Pioneer Camp) and it is definitely worth a couple of nights at each.

Tundra Buggy®

Photo courtesy of Frontiers North

Polar Bears

Where to find them: Churchill, Manitoba

When to go: October – November

How: By Tundra Buggy®

The Churchill Wildlife Management Area is said to be the best place in the world to see polar bears up close. We have a number of friends that have gone on the Tundra Buggy® excursion and they’ve all seen polar bears. We, on the other hand, have been to Svalbard where the polar bear population outnumbers the human population and didn’t spot any. Frontiers North offers a Churchill Polar Bear Enthusiast 5-day trip with two full days of Tundra Buggy® excursions tracking polar bears.

Grizzlies at Brooks Falls

Photo courtesy of Katmailand National Park

Grizzly Bears

Where to find them: Katmai National Park, Alaska

When to go: June – September

How: By foot

We’re a bit bear obsessed and regularly watch the Brooks Falls webcam. Each summer grizzlies flock to the Brooks River to fish for salmon on their spawning run. The Brooks Falls webcam can provide us hours of entertainment, so no doubt having a front row seat on the viewing platform would be a thrill. The Brooks Lodge offers 1 – 3 night bear viewing packages and the lodge is walking distance from the viewing platform.

Stingray CityStingrays

Where to find them: Stingray City, Antigua

When to go: Year round

How: By boat

The highlight of our visit to Antigua was our visit to Stingray City. Southern Rays swim and feed on a coral reef in the crystal clear waters off the Caribbean island and speedboats whisk you out to it. We had an amazing time feeding the rays squid right out of hands. Their mouths are like vacuums that suck the squid right up.  Stingray City tours last about 4 hours and are great for both cruise ship passengers or visitors staying on the island.

Snow Leopards

Snow leopards at Norden’s Ark in Sweden

Snow Leopards

Where to find them: Ladakh, Northern India

When to go: Winter

How: By foot

You’ll need some clementine cake to bribe the warlords to pass in to ungoverned Afghanistan. Just kidding. But you will have to traverse the rugged Himalayas in Northern India to spot the most elusive big cat in the world. This one is truly for the adventurous as you camp in the Himalayas while tracking and searching for evidence of the cats. Natural World Safaris offers an 8-day Quest for the Snow Leopard safari.

Giraffe Manor

Photo courtesy of Giraffe Manor

Giraffes

Where to find them: Nairobi, Kenya

When to go: June – April

How: By foot

Giraffe Manor has a resident tower of Rothschild giraffes and it’s the only hotel in the world where you can feed a giraffe right from your bedroom window. The tower (the name for a herd of giraffes) lives in the 140-acre forest sanctuary of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife’s (AFEW) Giraffe Centre and often visit the hotel in the morning or evening time looking for a treat. Of course, if you want to get up close with giraffes in the wild you go on safari, though none definitely came to eat out of our hands.

Happy #CaptionFriday everyone! Let’s start the weekend off with a laugh…what’s going on in this picture?From the passenger slideshow (name unknown) on our Explorers & Kings voyage, March 2014.

Posted by Quark Expeditions on Friday, May 15, 2015

Penguins

Where to find them: Antarctica

When to go: November – February

How: By cruise

Penguins are curious, often checking out the passengers that get to step foot on the seventh continent. If you sit quietly, the penguins might even crawl right in to your lap, poke at bootlaces or playfully pull your hair. Quark Expeditions, the leader in Polar travel, offers the option to camp on the continent and get up-close with a variety of penguin species.

Panda

Photo courtesy of Natural Habitat Adventures

Pandas

Where to find them: Chengdu, China

When to go: March – September

How: By foot

I couldn’t round out this list of the best up-close animal encounters without including another of our favorite bears. Sadly, there are only around 1600 pandas left in the wild and nearly half of their population can be found in the Minshan Mountains. This area of the world isn’t the easiest to explore on your own, but Natural Habitat Adventures offers a 12-day Wild Panda Nature Odyssey trip that includes time for getting panda hugs at Chengdu’s Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and heading out in to the wild panda reserve to try to get a look at them in their natural habitat.

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