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.

The Third Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Santorini – The Most Beautiful

Photo by Jimmy Teoh

Chances are, you have seen the breathtaking images of the dark blue Caldera waters complimented by whitewashed buildings set on steep volcanic slopes, creating the most amazing contrast of white and blue, worthy of every traveler’s dream.

Greece is steeped in history and has many gorgeous islands, each with a different personality. None, like Santorini – the Most Beautiful, as one of its many names, Kallisti, means. Some people even believe that you can find the ruins of the fabled city of Atlantis buried underneath the sea around it.

Unlike other Greek Islands, Santorini makes for a great destination no matter what time of year. By nature, its geography beckons to be explored and experienced, rather than simply used for sunbathing on the beach.

Expect many ups and downs, steep stairs, and small roads. Spend time dining in romantic restaurants, shopping trendy boutiques, and browsing art galleries. Soak up the island air and its flavors. Don’t forget to taste some local wine, supposedly some of the best in Greece. Knowing a thing or two about wine it only makes sense that the volcanic island soil would produce more sumptuous grapes.

We reached out to our clients who returned from Santorini just last fall and asked them to share their experience with us. Suzanne, Troy, and Rachel are well traveled and always up for an adventure. To celebrate Rachel’s college graduation and Suzanne & Troy’s wedding Anniversary, the three decided to make their dream come true.

They immersed themselves and savored every minute on the island. In fact, they loved it so much that one day in the future, when strolling along a romantic alley on Santorini, you might just find an artisan store bearing Suzanne’s name.

We would like to thank them so much for their trust and sharing some of their favorite memories:

photo jan 18, 1 39 55 pm

 

This is the third 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. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

 

Where to Honeymoon in September, October or November?

It used to be, that the summer months were the most popular, but lately, couples are choosing more and more to get married during the fall months.

With September being peak hurricane season, many ask where should we honeymoon in September or October? Is it safe to travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season? What do we have to expect from hurrican season? And, are there any alternatives?

sandals emerald bay, exuma, bahamas

Of course, choosing a destination has a lot to do with the time a couple has available as well as their budget. It also has something to do with what they ultimately want to experience.

Some couples aren’t worried about hurricanes and don’t mind a daily afternoon rain shower. That is mostly what you should expect during hurricane season. However, every now and then a hurricane forms and eventually takes one path or another.

Nowadays, hurricane tracking is fairly reliable and a hurricane’s path is predicted days before it actually happens. This can be both, great if indeed the hurrican takes a certain path and the chosen destination is affected, upsetting if you change your plans, only to find that the hurricane takes a different path or has weakened.

hurrican-tracking

The most important thing to have in this situation is solid travel insurance. If you have a “cancellation for covered reasons” policy, chances are that you are only covered if the hurricane hits. Meaning, that if the hurricane is supposed to hit tomorrow, but you are traveling today, you have no option to cancel because “fear of a hurricane” is usually not covered.  If you want to have the flexibility to decide not to go because you are worried a hurricane might affect your honeymoon, you need a so called “cancel for any reason” travel protection plan.

But, which Caribbean island to pick during hurricane season? If you want an all-inclusive experience, go with Jamaica, the Negril side to be precise. The island’s Blue Mountains offer a natural, protective barrier to the other side of the island. They also catch most of the rainfall. If an all-inclusive honeymoon isn’t on top of your list, pick one of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Curacao or Bonaire). These are usually out of the hurricane belt and less prone to stormy action.

jamaica-087

Whichever destination you choose in the Caribbean, or along the Pacific Coast, there never is a guarantee though. Weather patterns have been changing and are no longer as predictable as they once were.

For those who want to stay away from hurricanes altogether I suggest a trip to Europe. Fall in Europe is the best, and depending on where you go, you can still enjoy a beach vacation.

Here are some of my top choices:

IRELAND

doolough ireland aavexplorations

Great for nature lovers, couples on a tighter budget, couples afraid of long flights, and couples worried about language barriers.

How long does it take to get there? A quick 6- 7  hour flight from the East Coast will take you there.

ITALY

Venice004

Perfect for romantics, history buffs, art lovers, music lovers, food lovers… need I say more, the country screams amore and passion. Fall is less crowded, the weather mild, prices lower.

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 8 hours from the East Coast

GREECE

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For a laid back, sunny, island hopping experience. Sipping ouzo, nibbling on olives, watching a donkey go by. The perfect setting for a romantic, relaxing honeymoon. However, keep in mind that once October hits, many hotels, shops and even ferries shut down

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 10 hours from the East Coast

PORTUGAL

wisteria_douro_river_valley

Douro River – image courtesy of Viking River Cruises

For a romantic river cruise along the Duoro River where vineyards abound and harvest season is in full swing. Lisbon is also one of the most stunning cities in Europe!

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 6 hours from the East Coast

PARIS, LONDON & AMSTERDAM

subway station, metro , louvre rivoli, paris

For a three city power pack cultural experience. Each unique, each worth a visit. Super easy to connect via high-speed trains. Track Royals in London and have High Tea at Kensington Palace, stroll book stalls along the Seine in Paris and enjoy dinner atop the Eiffel Tower, and ride a bike in Amsterdam and check out the Anne Frank museum.

How long does it take to get there? Expect between 6 – 7 hours from the East Coast, depending on which city you fly in and fly out of.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

 

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of  AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm, specialized in creating and customizing honeymoons. You can contact her at stefanie@aavromance.com