The Daydream Series: Norway – Land of the Midnight Sun!

Norway

Daydreaming is easy, healthy, and free!
Here at AAV Travel, we would like to give your mind a break and the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the world from the comfort of your home.

TASTE • LISTENEXPERIENCEREADHAPPY HOUR

Although well known and popular with Europeans, Norway still feels like an off-radar destination for many Americans. Nearly 70 % of Norway is uninhabited, making it an incredible nature playground. Gorgeous views wherever you look! Although winter in Norway might seem dreary, it becomes a true snow-clad paradise. Along the coast, the temperatures usually stay around 32 F. Of course, making it perfect for winter activities. #tourismstrong

Norway is also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun.


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Norway is famous for its fresh, farm to table food approach. Seafood, which is often smoked, is part of many dishes. Dairy products, as well as cheese usually made from goat or sheep milk, are an everyday staple as well.

You can expect a very creative and innovative food culture wherever you go. One particular gem, though, is the historic town of Røros, which sits inland not far from the border to Sweden, about five hours north of Oslo. Founded in 1644, it is home to some of the oldest buildings in Europe and has a fairy tale feel. It is also well known as one of Norway’s leading food regions as everything grows very slowly in Røros, and hence develops a distinctive taste.

Learn how to make a “Beef Tartar with Truffle Cream” with Tareq Taylor, a chef from Sweden who hosts a Nordic Cookery series. In this episode, he prepares the beef tartar in the streets of Røros.

Click here for the full recipe.

Believe it or not, Norway is also home to the world’s largest underwater restaurant! Serving a sustainable menu based on local seafood and forest plants, this is a real bucket list experience in Lindesnes, located on the Southern tip of Norway.


Copy of taste!

Without a doubt, A-HA are Norway’s most famous export. No one else has come close to their fame and status. However, there are plenty of bands, especially of the electronic and pop genre to check out and listen to. Many of the artists sing in English, which makes their music more approachable from an international standpoint.

experience!

You’ll find quite a good selection of movie genres are coming from Norway. Some are quirky, others historical, some are dark, and others heroic.

  • Elling: When his mother, who has sheltered him his entire 40 years, dies, Elling, a sensitive, would-be poet, is sent to live in a state institution. There he meets Kjell Bjarne, a gentle giant and female-obsessed virgin in his 40s.
  • Max Manus Man of War: Max Manus tells a parallel story of Norway’s greatest Second World War hero, a ruthless anti-Nazi whose military skills were learned to fight with the Finns against the Soviet invaders.
  • In Order of Disappearance: Introverted and hard-working snowplow driver Nils has just been named Citizen of The Year, when he receives news that his son has died of a heroin overdose. Disbelieving the official report, he searches to find out the truth.

For those of you who have access to Netflix, there are some Norwegian series you can watch:

Nobel, a series of incidents in Afghanistan, set complicated political and personal events in motion for a returning Norwegian Special Forces officer.

The world is changing, and some might claim headed towards a new Ragnarok, the cataclysmic destruction of the cosmos and everything in it in Norse Mythology. It’s a modern-day interpretation of the story repeating itself, set in a small Norwegian town.

Lilyhammer is the story of a New York mobster going into hiding in the Norwegian town of Lilyhammer.

If you think you might want to visit someday soon, let these clips inspire you!



Read!

If you love reading and are ready to go deeper and learn more about the country as well as its history, culture, and behind the scenes, there are some excellent books for you!

The Snow Man (Harry Hole Series) by Jo Nesbo

One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a boy named Jonas wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Only one trace of her remains: a pink scarf, his Christmas gift to her, now worn by the snowman that inexplicably appeared in their yard earlier that day.  Inspector Harry Hole suspects a link between the missing woman and a suspicious letter he’s received. The case deepens when a pattern emerges: over the past decade, eleven women have vanished—all on the day of the first snow. But this is a killer who makes his own rules . . . and he’ll break his pattern just to keep the game interesting, as he draws Harry ever closer into his twisted web. With brilliantly realized characters and hair-raising suspense, international bestselling author Jo Nesbø presents his most chilling case yet—one that will test Harry Hole to the very limits of his sanity. For more…

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Trond’s friend Jon often appeared at his doorstep with an adventure in mind for the two of them. But this morning was different. What began as a joy ride on “borrowed” horses ends with Jon falling into a strange trance of grief. Trond soon learns what befell Jon earlier that day―an incident that marks the beginning of a series of vital losses for both boys.

Set in the easternmost region of Norway, Out Stealing Horses begins with an ending. Sixty-seven-year-old Trond has settled into a rustic cabin in an isolated area to live the rest of his life with a quiet deliberation. A meeting with his only neighbor, however, forces him to reflect on that fateful summer. For more…

The Social Guidebook to Norway – An Illustrated Introduction by Julien S Bourelle

This is your Social Guidebook to Norway. It takes you through an illustrated Norwegian journey. This guidebook is not about typical Norwegian behaviors. It is about behaviors that are peculiar to Norwegians. For more...

A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen

Ibsen’s seminal play, which changed modern drama, is a searing view of a male-dominated and authoritarian society, presented with a realism that elevates theater to a level above mere entertainment. The reverberations of Nora’s slamming the door as she leaves Torvald continue to this present day. Nicholas Rudall, justly celebrated for his translations of Ibsen, again provides a play of power and speakability. For more…


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Have you heard of Aquavit? Aquavit is distilled from grain or potato and flavored with caraway as the dominant spice. The spirit is truly a Scandinavian favorite, but Norway’s version has a unique twist. While others make an all-clear version, Norway ages theirs in sherry oak casks, that give the liquid a golden color. It also adds a hint of vanilla.

One of Norway’s most famous Aquavits is Linie Aquavit. Linie means “line” and refers to the unique aging process used for this particular brand. The oak barrels are loaded onto ships that cross the equator twice. Rumor has it that this tradition enhances the spirit’s flavor and makes the Aquavit extra smooth due to the barrels continually rolling on the ocean and temperature fluctuations.


Please stay safe and healthy, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as long as it is necessary.

Being able to travel is an incredible gift. The experience can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. Please behave responsibly and show respect!

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring the world at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.

To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Daydream Series: Portugal – Não éporque uma andorinha morre que acaba a primavera

Portugal (1)

Daydreaming is easy, healthy, and free!
Here at AAV Travel, we would like to give your mind a break and the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the world from the comfort of your home.

TASTE • LISTENEXPERIENCEREADHAPPY HOUR

Portugal has long been a well-kept secret among the Europea countries, but with increased tourism awareness campaigns and publicity, it has become a dream destination for many. A relatively small country, the country is similar in size to Pennsylvania, or three times smaller than the UK. Although seemingly small, the nation is mighty with plenty to offer for those who want to explore. #tourismstrong


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Anthony Bourdain said, “Portugal has got a lot of coastlines and a lot of history with the sea. It’s a close relationship, one that’s imprinted deep into the national character — the songs, the poetry, the state of mind.”

Of course, that also plays a role when it comes to food. Although cuisine varies from region to region, fresh fish and shellfish are found on virtually any menu. “Bacalhau,” dried, salted cod is Portugal’s national dish. Its root stems back to the 16th century when Portuguese sailors salted and sun-dried their catch abroad so it would last throughout the long journey home. There are many different ways to prepare Bacalhau, as the Portuguese say, there is a different way for each day of the year.

Unlike in the US or Great Britain, breakfast traditionally consists of coffee and a bread roll. Lunch, on the other hand, is a real sit down and enjoy affair, often lasting up to two hours. The same goes for dinner. Although you will be able to find an early meal, the Portuguese dine late, after 8 o’clock.

Check out what to expect on a virtual food tour of Lisbon with James and Alice from Devour Tours, a food tour operator in Portugal and Spain.

If you would like to make a Portugese dish at home, why not try a Bifana?


Copy of taste!

Portugal is famous for Fado, soulful, heavily expressive and profoundly melancholic singing, usually accompanied by a guitarist. It is often heard in pubs, cafes, and restaurants. If you find yourself wandering the cobblestone streets of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto area one evening, you are sure to hear some Fado wafting through the air.

Portugal is also home to many other genres and different artists. They are as versatile as the country’s regions and fun to listen to!

Click the picture for our Portugal playlist on Spotify. 

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experience!

There is a good selection of movies set in and around Portugal. Some are harder to get your hands on than others, but they are all worth it if you are interested in the storyline.

Based on a book, Nigth Train to Lisbon is the story of a Swiss Professor, who abandons his lectures and buttoned-down life to embark on a thrilling adventure that will take him on a journey to the very heart of himself.

It’s a very tasteful and intriguing movie about finding oneself, showing great shots of both Lisbon and my hometown, the city of Bern, Switzerland.

Capitaes de Abril explores the days leading up to Lisbon’s Carnation Revolution, a historical moment in the 1970s when a military coup led by Captain Fernando José Salgueiro Maia, ended the dictatorship.

Lisbon Story tells the tale of a sound engineer who obtains a mysterious postcard from a friend who is currently shooting a film in Lisbon, saying that he should visit. He sets out across Europe to find him and help him. This movie is a treat with many great shots from Lisbon, Fado, and a romance.

Voyage to the Beginning of the World, or Viagem ao Princípio do Mundo is the story of an aging film director, who takes a road trip across Portugal with his actors.

Christopher Columbus – The Enigma is a Portuguese movie,  in which a doctor and his wife embark on a journey to prove that explorer Christopher Columbus was Portuguese, not Italian.

Amalia allows you a glimpse into the life of Amalia Rodriguez, who was a pioneer in Fado music. Dubbed Portugal’s “Queen of Fado,” she sold over 30 million records during her life.


Read!

If you are ready to go deeper and learn more about the country as well as its history, culture, and behind the scenes, there are some excellent reads for you!

The Portugese: The Land and its People by Marion Kaplan

The history of Portugal is long and colorful, with nations such as the Romans and the Moors invading. The Portuguese explorers who brought back many influences to the country and the many rulers whose sagas are rich in intrigue. This book introduces the reader to local crafts and festivals of Portugal; trade, industry, and finance; the family, whose links bind tightly and so influence the country; the geographical land with its beauty – the rivers running from the hills in the east to the sea in the west; the character of the people, attitudes, education; the culture, architecture, paintings and poets and novelists. For more info…

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

An allegorical novel in three parts is set in the fictional High Mountains of 17th-century Portugal and beyond, where characters explore questions of loss and faith while on a quest while tackling ghosts and in the contemporary world. By the award-winning author of Life of Pi. For more info…

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

From supersummary.com: The Book of Disquiet is a journal by Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa. Published by his friends in 1961, it contains Pessoa’s reflections beginning in 1912 at the age of twenty-four as he anticipated World War I. Pessoa wrote the book mainly for himself under the pseudonym Bernardo Soares, and it was not published until nearly half a century after he died in 1935. Though the format of the book is difficult to pin down, it reads like a diary or journal, dealing with the internal life of the seemingly banal “Soares” as he works as a simple assistant to a bookkeeper in Lisbon. The book became known as a great work in the genre of world literature for its simplistic yet poignant characterization of the ordinary life of a lower-class Portuguese person. For more info…

The Year of the Death of Ricard Reis by Jose Saramago

The year: 1936. Europe dances while an invidious dictator establishes himself in Portugal. The city: Lisbon-gray, colorless, chimerical. Ricardo Reis, a doctor and poet, has just come home after sixteen years in Brazil. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero. For more info…

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PORT WINE

Port wine is exclusively produced in Portugal’s north, the Douro valley. The Douro valley is also famous for its wine and makes for a great place to explore if you love culinary vacations.

Port wine is sweet and usually served as a dessert wine or digestif. There are many different versions, including red and white. They all require several years of aging.

If you are interested in trying port and want to learn more, check out Port Wine for Beginners.


This list is compiled in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but also as a resource for anyone considering to travel to Portugal, or wanting to get a feel for the country before their trip.

Please stay safe and healthy, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as long as it is necessary.

Being able to travel is an incredible gift. The experience can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. Please behave responsibly and show respect!

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring the world at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.

To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Daydream Series: Ireland – The Emerald Isle!

Ireland (1)

Daydreaming is easy, healthy, and free!
Here at AAV Travel, we would like to give your mind a break and the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the world from the comfort of your home.

TASTE • LISTENEXPERIENCEREADHAPPY HOUR

Ireland is likely one of the most loved and cherished European countries, particularly by Americans. This post celebrates a nation with plenty of history, heart, culture, and passion!  #tourismstrong



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Irish food needs no introduction! Meat, potato, milk, and dairy have shaped Ireland’s food culture since the middle ages. Surrounded by the sea with many rivers and lakes, seafood naturally plays an important role as well. Today, Ireland has a thriving food scene, which combines the traditional with a more modern approach.

Galway hosts the Irish food festival each year, celebrating the areas rich culinary landscape and is also home to some incredible food tour operators. I particularly enjoy working with Padraic when creating itineraries around Galway. He takes clients to the Aran Islands, or all across Connemara for food as well as pub tours.

Another fantastic area for foodies is the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland. At AAV Travel,  we love it when females take action and happily send our clients to explore the region with Portia, the founder of Toast to Coast food tours.

There are, of course, many reasons to visit Ireland, but you wish, you can make your visit all about food and drink.

Are you ready to try a winter recipe at home?

Irish Leek & Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 3 large leeks trimmed, sliced, thoroughly rinsed, and dried
  • 3 spuds diced (russet potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 liters of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Easy to follow instructions, courtesy of the Happy Pear and Melanie Murphy.


Copy of taste!

Irish music is as varied as Ireland’s weather. From rock to traditional folk music, there is something for everyone. Our playlist highlights many of the country’s favorites, but there are more, so many more.

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experience!

Whether you want to delve into Ireland’s history, enjoy some Irish music, or drool over the gorgeous landscapes, there are many movies to pick from. Here is a selection of six to get you started.

  • Michael Collins: The story of Michael Collins and the Irish Republican Army fighting for Ireland’s independence from the British.
  • The Quiet Man: Irish-American boxer John Wayne, accidentally kills a man in the ring and returns to the Irish village where he was born. Hoping for a tranquil life, Wayne purchases a home that is also coveted by pugnacious squire Victor McLaglen. This 1952 movie is set in the village of Cong in the west of Ireland.
  • Angela’s Ashes: Angela’s Ashes follows the experiences of young Frankie and his family as they try against all the odds to escape the poverty endemic in the slums of pre-war Limerick.
  • P.S. I love you: Although sad at times, it is a romantic comedy. A grieving widow follows a series of tasks to be revealed in ten monthly messages left by her husband and designed to help her overcome her sorrow while gradually making the transition into a new life.
  • The Commitments: Jimmy Rabbitte, a self-proclaimed promoter, decides to organize an R&B group to fill the musical void in his hometown of Dublin. The band comes together but consists entirely of white musicians who have little experience with R&B.
  • The Secret of Roan Inish: Ten-year-old Fiona is sent to Donegal to live with her grandparents. On the nearby island of Roan Inish, she spies a wild child. Fiona believes that the child is her long-lost brother, who mysteriously disappeared when his cradle floated out on the tide.

If you want to do some daydreaming and possibly plan a visit, check out this clip about the rugged West Coast.

If you are interested in Dublin, check out N.Y. Times’ 36 Hours in Dublin clip!

Although Ireland appears small in size, it is one of the most varied countries. This clip takes you across the island to explore some of the most stunning landscapes.

 



Read!

If you love reading and are ready to go deeper and learn more about the country as well as its history, culture, and behind the scenes, there are some excellent books for you!

Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks
TV comedian Tony Hawks tries to win a bet by hitchhiking around the circumference of Ireland in one calendar month, with a fridge. This is the story of Tony’s adventures—the people he meets, the difficulties, the triumphs, and that fridge. For more…

The Pope’s Children by David McWilliams

This is the special generation, the Irish baby boom of the 1970s that peaked nine months to the day after the Pope’s visit. There are 620,000 of them, squeezed into the middle and lifted up by the Expectocracy. Ireland is blurring. Out of this haze has come the Full-on Nation, the most hedonistic generation ever.

David McWilliams’ brilliant research and analysis of Ireland is a celebration of success. In an easy-to-read style, he takes us to Deckland, that suburban state of mind where you will find the Kells Angels, Breakfast Roll Man, Low GI Jane, and RoboPaddy. Come face to face with the You’re a Star generation, Billy Bunker, fair-trade Frank, Carrot Juice Contrarians, and Bouncy Castle Brendan. We also meet the HiCos, Hibernian Cosmopolitans, the new elite whose distance from Deckland is measured by appreciations and cultivations that Deckland’s rampant credit just can’t buy.

Entertaining and informative, The Pope’s Children told of the vast surge of ambition, money, optimism, and hope in Ireland during the boom. For more…

The Treasury of Irish Folklore by Padraic Colum
Everything from Irish myths, superstitions, and even songs of Ireland, are included. From blessings to spells, this book is chocked full of info, ready for you to crack the cover. For more…

Poems by Seamus Heaney
This critically-acclaimed body of work brings together roughly 100 poems culled by Seamus Heaney from nine of his collections. For more…

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more. For more…



HappyHour!

If you watched the 36 Hours in Dublin clip above, you know that the Guinness Brewery’ is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions.

If you have never tasted one before, this might be the moment to try one. Or, if you want to check out one of Ireland’s most popular shots, try a Baby Guinness.

Ingredients:

  • Coffee Liquor
  • Irish Cream


Please stay safe and healthy, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as long as it is necessary.

Being able to travel is an incredible gift. The experience can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. Please behave responsibly and show respect!

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring the world at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.

To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Daydream Series: Iceland – þetta reddast!

Iceland

Daydreaming is easy, healthy, and free!
Here at AAV Travel, we would like to give your mind a break and the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the world from the comfort of your home.

TASTE • LISTENEXPERIENCEREADHAPPY HOUR

Iceland is truly unique! Home to 130 volcanos, about 30 of which are still active, this post is dedicated to the coolest nation of them all! #tourismstrong



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Icelandic food is, well, let’s say interesting. Once you’ve visited, it is easier to understand. Iceland has a very drastic climate including the lack of sunlight at times. Not much grows naturally, and fishing and hunting options are limited. Plus, its location under the Arctic Circle didn’t make it any easier to import goods and food, in the past. However, the country has evolved and its use of geothermal energy today, allows Iceland to grow fresh produce. Nowadays, you can find quite an array of food, ranging from more traditional Icelandic dishes to international cuisine. However, fish is an intricate piece of the country’s food culture.

If you would like to try a traditional Icelandic dish at home, we suggest trying out Iceland Food Center’s PLOKKFISKUR.

Ingredients:

  • 500gr pollock, haddock, cod or any other white fish
  • 500gr potatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion (or 2 small, or 3 even smaller)
  • 50gr butter
  • 3 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 300ml milk (or more if you prefer it thinner)
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp white pepper.

For a dairy-free version substitute butter with olive oil and milk with oat milk (or other non-dairy alternatives).

Description:

  • Boil and peel potatoes.
  • Poach your white fish according to instructions.
  • Put aside.
  • Sautée onions in butter at medium heat until translucent.
  • Add flour to the butter and onions and whisk until it becomes a paste.
  • Whisk in milk – a ladle at a time until it’s a thick sauce.
  • Congratulations you made bechamel!
  • Break up the potatoes and fish and add it to the mixture.
  • If you’ve used up all the bechamel and you feel it’s still too thick you can add milk or the poaching water to thin it out.
  • Season to taste!

Copy of taste!

Iceland’s sound is unique. You can feel its landscape, atmosphere, and moods, in many songs. It is not always easy listening, but you will be hard-pressed finding another country that produces music with so much authenticity and personality.  What strikes me the most, is how different it sounds, once you had an opportunity to visit. It’s almost like all of a sudden, you understand where it is coming from and why it is represented like that.

Click the picture for our sample playlist on Spotify. 

iceland



experience!

Iceland’s film industry developed slowly in comparison to other Nordic countries until the establishment of the Icelandic Film Fund (IFF) in 1978. The fund helped the local film industry grow and these days, we have quite a selection of movies that share the country’s unique humor, landscapes, atmosphere, as well as way of life.

  • Rams: An Icelandic farmer (Theodór Júlíusson) and his estranged brother (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) band together to save their flocks of sheep from authorities who want the animals destroyed.
  • Of Horses and Men: Set amidst the majestic splendor of the Icelandic countryside, Icelandic writer-director Benedikt Erlingsson interweaves a series of tales about horse-owners and their steeds.
  • 101 Reykjavik: The story of unemployed and unmotivated Hlynur (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) and Lola (Victoria Abril), a flamenco teacher.
  • Children of Nature: A retired farmer, Thorgeir (Gisli Halldorsson) moves to Reykjavik, and winds up in a retirement home, where he reconnects with Stella (Sigridur Hagalin), an old friend from his childhood.
  • Cold Fever: A Japanese man (Masatoshi Nagase) finds misadventure and eccentric characters while in Iceland to perform a memorial service for his parents.
  • Screaming Masterpiece: Screaming Masterpiece is a 2005 documentary film about the music scene in Iceland.

If you’d like to get an idea of what to expect, have a look at Lonely Planet’s presentation.

And for additional impressions, a video created by Iceland Travel, one of our onsite partners.

Here are also a couple of clips from my winter trip to Iceland.

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Winter is coming! Iceland 🇮🇸 might not be the escape that comes to mind, but it for sure is worth a visit. Amazing light, drastic landscapes with frozen formations, and of course, the best season to see the Northern Lights. It’s also an awesome time for adventure experiences like the one I had the chance to join last January. The Super Jeep Tour with @activityiceland venturing into the unspoiled Thorsmork valley during these icy ❄️ conditions. You are almost guaranteed to get stuck somewhere, so for safety reasons, there are always at least two vehicles. Quite a thrill! #iceland #icelandtravel #valleyofthor #thorsmork #aavexperience #aavtravel #winteriscoming #gameofthrones #thewall #luxurytravel #adventuretravel #bucketlist #offthebeatenpath

A post shared by Stefanie Pichonnat (@aavtravel) on



Read!

If you are ready to go deeper and learn more about the country as well as its history, culture, and behind the scenes, there are some excellent reads for you!

The Sagas of Icelanders by several authors: In Iceland, the age of the Vikings is also known as the Saga Age. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled in Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured farther west to Greenland and, ultimately, North America. For more…

The Little Book of Icelanders in the Old Days by Alda Sigmundsdottir: Iceland in centuries past was a formidable place to live. Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the edge of the inhabitable world, the nation was both isolated and abjectly poor. Centuries of colonization translated into oppression and subjugation from the colonial overlords, and a hostile climate and repeated natural disasters meant that mere survival was a challenge to even the hardiest of souls. In these 50 miniature essays, Alda Sigmundsdottir writes about the Icelanders in centuries past in a light and humorous way, yet never without admiration and respect for the resilience and strength, they showed in coping with conditions of adversity that are barely imaginable today. For more…

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss: Sarah Moss had a childhood dream of moving to Iceland, sustained by a wild summer there when she was nineteen. In 2009, she saw an advertisement for a job at the University of Iceland and applied on a whim, despite having two young children and a comfortable life in Kent. The resulting adventure was shaped by Iceland’s economic collapse, which halved the value of her salary, by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and by a collection of new friends, including a poet who saw the only bombs fall on Iceland in 1943, a woman who speaks to elves and a chef who guided Sarah’s family around the intricacies of Icelandic cuisine. Read more… 

The Fish can Sing by Halldor Laxness: Alfgrim was an abandoned child whose mother gave birth to him in the turf cottage of Bjorn of Brekkukot, the fisherman, on the outskirts of Reykjavik. This is the tale of Alfgrim’s boyhood and youth in the home of his grandparents in the early years of the twentieth century. It is a hospitable place, where dignified understatement is the norm and everything from a lumpfish to a Bible has a fixed price that never changes. For more…


HappyHour!

Brennivín (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈprɛnːɪvin]) is a clear, unsweetened schnapps that is considered to be Iceland’s signature distilled beverage. It might be hard to find in the US, but you can always ask your local liquor store to see if they have an option to order it for you.

ARCTIC SOLSTICE – Created in 2014 by Villi K. of B5 Lounge in Reykjavik

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Brennivín
  • 1 oz Chambord
  • 1 oz Fresh squeezed lime juice

Method: Shake with ice and then strain it. Use a Collins glass and top with soda water to fill the glass. Add a mint sprig and a slice of grapefruit to garnish.

Skál! Please stay safe and healthy, wash your hands and practice social distancing as long as it is necessary.

Being able to travel is an incredible gift. The experience can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. Please behave responsibly and show respect!

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring the world at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.

To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Daydream Series: Italy – Dolce Far Niente!

Copy of DaydreamJAMAICA

Daydreaming is easy, healthy, and free!
Here at AAV Travel, we would like to give your mind a break and the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the world from the comfort of your home.

TASTE • LISTENEXPERIENCEREADHAPPY HOUR

Italy is one of the most loved destinations in Europe! This post is a celebration of the country that invented “Dolce Far Niente,” its amazing people, as well as our Italian friends and industry partners. #tourismstrong



Jamaican Flavors

As the late Anthony Bourdain said: ‘Italian food at its best is like Japanese food, but with more emotion. ‘ 

Italy’s food needs no introduction as most every country has their own Italian restaurant or a version thereof. If you’ve been to Italy, you know that there are many different variations of pasta, sauces, flavors, cured meats. Every region seems to have its own specialty. For food lovers, Emilia Romagna provides some of the most exciting options as this small region is home to Bologna, Modena, and Parma.

In our family, we enjoy many different pasta sauces. One of our favorites is “Carbonara.” Technically a very easy, quick, and straight forward recipe, requiring only a handful of ingredients. All you need are spaghetti, a slab of bacon (slices work too), olive oil, eggs, pepper, and parmesan or pecorino cheese (freshly grated, please). You don’t need to add salt because the bacon is flavorful enough. However, don’t forget to salt the water!

Other than that, Antonio does an excellent job of explaining how to prepare true Spaghetti Carbonara.

Click here for more Italian Cooking Lessons you can watch online.


Copy of taste!

Picture yourself cruising in through Tuscany in a convertible, or along a rocky coastline in a Fiat 500.

Fiat

Italian tunes are bound to make you happy and give you a good feel for the language as well as the smoky voices of many of its most famous artists. Some of them are deeply engraved into my memory, taking me straight back to 80ies Italy, spending family vacations along the beach in Pescara. Or watching one of the classic Adriano Celentano movies, which were always a blast.

Click the picture for our sample playlist on Spotify. 

Italy



experience!

There are so many great movies to watch when it comes to Italy.

If you want to get a feel for Italian filmmaking, you cannot skip Federico Fellini, who is recognized as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. ‘Life is a combination of magic and pasta.’ A quote of his is one of my favorites.

There is quite a bit of selection for movies with a lot of Italian scenery.

 

Much of The Tourist is set in Venice, whereas Under the Tuscan Sun is filmed in the beautiful town of Cortona, Tuscany, as well as the Umbria region, which is home to Lake Trasimeno. Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie, Stealing Beauty, is set in one of Tuscany’s beautiful villa with many beautiful shots of the fantastic scenery.

Of course, there are many more movies. Please be aware that many of them are Rated R and not necessarily suitable for the younger generation.

I returned from Milan earlier this year, where I met with hoteliers and tour operators of many regions, including two emerging ones, Basilicata and Sicily. Both are incredibly beautiful and still relatively untouched. I’ll be eager to share more information with my clients that have already explored much of Italy before. Oh, and if you were wondering, the 2020 Italian Capital of Culture is Parma.

Plus, here is a nice overview of the many different experiences, Italy offers.



Read!

If you are ready to go deeper and learn more about the country as well as its history, culture, and behind the scenes, there are some excellent reads for you!

The Enchanted April  by Elizabeth von Arnim

Four very different women, looking to escape dreary London for the sunshine of Italy, take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each person blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur. For more.

Italian for the Gourmet Traveler by Fred Plotkin

In recent years, dozens of cookbooks have explored Italian regional cookery and captured the flavors of Tuscany, Emila-Romangna, the Veneto, and Sicily, among other places. But for Fred Plotkin, who has spent the last two decades scouring Italy from tip to toe in search of memorable food, nothing can compare to the herb-perfumed cuisine of Liguria, the Italian Riviera. Now in the first-ever cookbook devoted to this region, Plotkin offers definitive proof that Ligurian food is not only the tastiest in Italy but the healthiest as well — the ultimate Mediterranean diet. From pesto and focaccia, the regions best-known specialties, to more unusual dishes such as fava bean soup, pumpkin-filled pasta topped with tuna caviar, braised duck with green olives, and a cherry tart Genovese, Plotkin shows how to re-create more than 200 authentic Ligurian dishes — and enjoy a true taste of paradise. For more. 

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

World-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization, the Illuminati. Desperate to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth, the long-forgotten Illuminati lair. For more. 

The House of the Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hippert

At its height, Renaissance Florence was a center of enormous wealth, power, and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family’s huge influence on the political, economic, and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence’s slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line. For more. 

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. For more. 

 


HappyHour!

How about a classic Italian pre-dinner drink this time?

NEGRONI

Negroni is a highly popular Italian drink, considered a pre-dinner drink. It is very straight forward to make. Don’t forget, it’s stirred, not shaken.

  • 1/3 Vermouth Rosso
  • 1/3 Bitter Campari
  • 1/3 Dry Gin.

Preparation: Served on the rocks, you need to use a medium tumbler or an old-fashioned glass, stir the ingredients directly in your glass and garnish with a half slice of orange and lemon peel.

 


This list is compiled in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but also as a resource for anyone considering to travel to Italy, or wanting to get a feel for the country before their trip.

Please stay safe and healthy, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as long as it is necessary.

Being able to travel is an incredible gift. The experience can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. Please behave responsibly and show respect!

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring the world at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.

To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

On the Twelfth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Cycling in Burgundy

France offers many wonderful wine regions, one for every wine enthusiast it seems. For Mark, Julie, Allen, and Alicia, Burgundy was the choice.

Burgundy is made up of vineyards, castles, rivers, and a lot of history. Dijon, its capital, can easily be reached in an hour and forty minutes from Paris via high-speed train. If you are into wine, there is quite a bit to explore with the five wine producing regions.

The most important red wine areas are Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny, Beaune, Pommard, and Volnay.

If you prefer white, your most famous areas are Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Corton, and Pouilly-Fuisse.

There are many different ways to explore the region but since Mark, Julie, Allen, and Alicia, love being active, we set them up with a private bike tour through the vineyards. During their day cycling the Côte de Nuits area, they visited a domaine in Aloxe Corton as well as Gevrey Chambertin. They tried many wines and enjoyed a traditional lunch. As you can see they lucked out with perfect weather that day!

This blog post is the twelfth destination highlight concluding our series of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring Europe at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.  To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

On the Tenth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: European River Cruising

Exploring Europe via a river cruise has gained a large momentum over the past ten years. Several river cruise companies have emerged, built new ships, and today, you have a large choice of itineraries as well as different river cruise companies.

River cruises are best planned well ahead. The pricing can seem steep initially, but a lot is included. Also, promotions and discounts are available if you plan to travel during the off-season, or chose a less popular cruise itinerary.

The most popular river cruise itinerary sails along the Danube River. The Danube originates in Germany and crosses Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea. A typical River Cruise itinerary, however, travels between the Nuremberg/Regensburg area to Budapest only, making several stops throughout Austria, most notably Vienna.

architecture bridge building structures castle

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

Equally popular is a Rhine River cruise which sails between Basel, Switzerland and Amsterdam, Netherlands. It travels along the German/French allowing guests to visit the romantic Alsace Region and then continues through Germany on to the Netherlands (or the other way around).

The Seine River is a wonderful option for guests who are interested in Paris, France’s countryside, all the way to Normandy. As it travels a rather short distance, it often is roundtrip and allows for a lot of in-depth stops.

For wine lovers, a Bordeaux river cruise is an excellent option. Staying within a fairly small area, it allows its guests to visit famous wine regions like Pauillac and St. Emilion.

There are many more river cruise options within central Europe all with a different flair and unique experiences.

This blog post is the tenth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring Europe at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.  To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

On the Ninth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Milano

Milan is not on top of the list of cities to visit in Italy. Most people end up in Milan because they are in transit to somewhere else. It could be they are flying into the airport and are heading South towards Florence or East towards Venice. It could be they have to go through Milan to travel to Lake Como.

When in Milan, the typical tourist route includes the Duomo, the Galleria Emanuele III, Castel Gandolfi, and Da Vinci’s Last Supper. These sights are good for a day of sightseeing. But, what else is there to do?

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Milan is odd. After the Romans left the Milanese destroyed most of the Roman structures as they didn’t want any reminders from that time. Milan originally was built with many canals which were the way for tradespeople to get around. These were later covered to make way for streets and cars. The city took another big hit when it was heavily bombarded during World War II.  Today, the contrast between modern buildings and old structures is quite drastic.

As I arrived for my fifth time in Milan, I was determined to find its soul. After all, it is a fashion, design, and business metropole. I quickly understood that using the public transportation system was the key to discovering the city’s pulse. The subway is fast, efficient, and incredibly affordable. It will take you to areas such as:

Brera
This enchanting district is one of the most beloved, romantic, and atmospheric quarters of Milano. The best way to experience it is by strolling along and randomly soak it in. Peek through gates, look at artworks, stop by galleries, enjoy one of the many excellent ristorantes and trattorias. If you don’t want to walk from the city center, take the subway to Lanza.

Navigli
This neighborhood is set along the original Naviglio Grande canal, the oldest canal in Milan. It was built around sometime around 1200 and is more than 35 miles in length. At the time it was used to transport goods. Today the area is home to numerous restaurants, bars, many small boutiques, and art galleries.
In the evening, it is hugely popular with the young Milanese crowd because of the so-called aperitivo hour or happy hour. Between 5 pm – 7 pm many of the bars offer free food provided you purchase one drink. It’s a fun and hip place to sit outside and experience some authentic nightlife and there are plenty of options to choose from. There are also some romantic, more hidden trattorias.

 

This blog post is the ninth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. She specializes in creating experiences across Italy and travels to Milan almost yearly, to network at Italy’s tourism trade show. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

The Seventh Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Munich and its Surroundings

Most people associate Munich with the Oktoberfest which spans over about 16 days at the end of September to the beginning of October. It is the world’s largest Volksfest with currently 14 tents, all serving beer, and festival food. It is a lot of fun!

bavaria munich octoberfest oktoberfest

Photo by Manuel Joseph on Pexels.com

But there are more reasons to visit Munich than the Oktoberfest and a less busy time might be more enjoyable. Of course, its historic city center is beautiful; there are many creative shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. It is particularly pretty before Christmas when the lights are up, and the Christkindlmarkt is running.

Munich also makes for a great hub:

Venture South East to visit:

  • Neuschwanstein Castle also dubbed the Cinderella Castle.
  • Salzburg, the city of music, and gateway to anything related to the Sound of Music.
  • Hallstatt, picturesque village set on a lake.

white castle during daytime

Photo by Pascal Renet on Pexels.com

Venture North to visit:

  • The Romantic Road, a scenic drive through Bavaria’s countryside with many medieval and romantic towns.

rothenburg germany

For WorldWar II history buffs there are many sites to visit:

  • The Dachau Concentration Camp
  • Hitler’s Eagles Nest
  • Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg

Many of our clients combine Munich and the area with some other parts of Germany, or Switzerland for example. Rachel & Lee, combined Switzerland, with the Oktoberfest and Munich, and from there explored the Romantic Road.

We are so excited that they shared some of their pictures with us, enjoy!

 

 

This is the seventh destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Growing up in Switzerland she has had the opportunity to explore Europe ever since she was little. She can help you create a wonderful European adventure. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Fifth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Grasmere, UK

There is a good chance that you are either reading this post to find out “why Grasmere and where is it,” or you love, as I do, the Lake District, and know exactly what I am talking about.

If you want to start at the beginning and learn more about the Lake District, visit our earlier post. Less developed and popular than Windermere, Ambleside, or Keswick, Grasmere successfully preserved a “best-kept secret” appeal. A couple of shops, some restaurants, basically a quaint and sleepy village. It’s a good place to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in what the Lake District is all about when you are not exploring its stunning valleys, lakes, glens, rivers, and mountains.

If you are a lover of poetry, there is a good chance you know William Wordsworth’s work. Grasmere was his home for 14 years, and he referred to it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” He lived with his sister and wife, in a place called Dove Cottage. Today, his former home is a small museum, highlighting his work but also life in the Lake District. A visit allows you to take a step back in time and get an idea of what his poetry was all about.

Rothay Garden Hotel and Riverside Spa is where you want to:

  • Head back to after a day’s hike
  • Sleep in on a rainy day
  • Warm up by the fire when it is chilly outside
  • Read a book in the garden when the daffodils bloom
  • Relax, soak and marvel at Grasmere’s beautiful fells from the gorgeous spa
  • Enjoy award-winning fine dining while marveling at spectacular garden views

It’s a place where you can take a thoroughly enjoy taking a break from it all and indulge your “introverted” self.

Our pictures were taken on a rainy day, so we are adding the hotel’s video for another perspective. The sun does shine in Grasmere too!

photo mar 30, 6 28 11 pm

This is the fifth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. The UK is a long time favorite of hers, having traveled all over. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.