March 26, 2017

Fabulous Friday – When flying, do you prefer the window, middle, or aisle seat?

I can distinctly remember my first ever trip on an airplane.  I was 8 years old and we were flying from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to visit my mom’s family.  Oh boy was I excited!  And dressed up too!  No sloppy jeans for us.  My mom and I were in new dresses and my brother wore a little tie.

Oh how things have changed today!  Everyday you can hear someone complaining about the airlines, the food, TSA or the seats.  Its bad enough the amount they charge for First or Business class seats but now they even charge extra for extra room in coach.

Middle Seat Cartoon

From Paul Fell http://www.executivetravel.com

My co-worker is flying to Hawaii and the other day we got started talking about seat preferences when on an airplane.

She really likes the window seat because she can see what is outside especially as the plane is descending for landing.  But if she is traveling with her husband she usually selects the dreaded center seat so he can have an aisle.

I prefer an aisle seat solely because I get the feeling of having more space since one shoulder is not next to someone or something.  My second choice would be a window.  That said,  I usually select a center seat when traveling with my husband.  That is, of course, until he spilled red wine on me during a flight to New York City.  The aisle across from him will work just fine, thank you!

by Daquella manera, on Flickr

I book corporate travel as part of my “job” and most co-workers prefer aisles but some opt for windows.

No one books that center seat!!

On this Friday and just for Fun I thought I’d ask . . .

 

When flying, do you prefer window, middle or aisle seat?

Does this change if you are traveling with a friend, significant other or spouse?

Sound of Music in Salzburg!

On Easter Sunday I treated myself to one of my favorite movies, The Sound of Music.  While watching the movie, I was taken back to the time I enjoyed the famous Sound of Music tour in Salzburg Austria.

I was actually on my honeymoon and my husband graciously got on the bus which plays the soundtrack the entire time!

Obviously, I enjoyed this tour because of the movie but it was a great way to see some beautiful parts of the area right outside Salzburg.

See if any of these look familiar!

Von Trapp House Sound of Music Salzburg AustriaThe back of the Von Trapp Family Home

Mirabell Gardens Salzburg AustriaMirabell Gardens with Pegasus Fountain in background

Gazebo Sound of Music Tour Salzburg AustriaI am 16 going on 17 gazebo!

Mondsee Church Sound of Music Salzburg AustriaMondsee Church where wedding took place

Altar in Mondsee Church Salzburg AustriaAltar inside church

I hope you enjoyed wandering through my memories of Salzburg and the Sound of Music tour!

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Wine Tasting in Paris with O Chateau!

Are you in Paris, afraid to try French wine but don’t know where to go to learn?  Have I got a fun and informative solution to your dilemma!

O Chateau is a company in Paris that teaches the public all about French wine in a very enjoyable and fun way.  O Chateau was started by Olivier Magny whose energy and knowledge is only surpassed by his canny sense of humor!  As stated on their website, “. . . we hire our sommeliers based on their personality just as much as their wine knowledge.”  If you want an indication of their sense of humor just take a look at their website!

Without further ado, Olivier Magny of O Chateau. . .

 

Tell me a little about you.  Where are you from, how you got into the wine business?

My name is Olivier. I’m 30 years old. I was born and raised in Paris. I’m a sommelier. I entered the wine business by creating Ô Chateau seven years ago. It was a moment of mild insanity I must say.Olivier Magny O Chateau Paris France

What made you leap into this new venture?

Another clear moment of insanity. We were looking for a space of our own. We spent 18 months looking for a new home for O Chateau. And one day, my business partner, Nicolas Paradis, found this beautiful space 5 minutes from the Louvre, in Paris coolest neighborhood. We visited it. Thought it was too big for us, too pricey for us, too everything for us.  And decided to go for it!! I completely blame it on that second bottle of wine.

O Chateau Wine Bar Paris FranceTell me something about O’Chateau that isn’t on your website.

We are in major debt.

Do you find that US wine palates and knowledge differ from other nationalities?

Clearly, there are many discrepancies within the US. Some people are more experienced than others. But if I were to give you a general line, I’d say that Americans tend to like bigger, fuller bodied reds, and fresh, fruity whites. When they come to a tasting at O Chateau, they all recognize how different French wine can be from the wines they’re used to drinking at home. In terms of knowledge, I’d say that most of our American clients tend to be more knowledgeable about wine than our French clients. The passion, the interest for wine in France is vastly MIA while it is and been booming in the States.

I noticed on your website that you have a very attractive staff and you bear an uncanny resemblance to Jude Law.  Are you related?  How did you decide to share that photograph with the world?

Well, actually, I am Jude Law. But acting is not filling enough a profession so I created this Olivier Magny persona. It’s working out so far. As per the rest of our staff, well, I was lucky enough that some of my Hollywood homies had an interest in wine.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 misconceptions US travelers have about French wine?

1 – That it’s expensive. The average amount of money spent of a bottle of wine in France is 3.61€. You can get great wine in France for 6 or 7€ a bottle. In many regions, even the great wines are super affordable.

2 – That it’s arrogant. That might have been true 20 years ago but not any more I feel. Any lack of accessibility is mostly due to bad O Chateau Food Paris Francemarketing, which stems from the sociological identity of who is behind wine in France. Key difference with the US right there.

3 – That they should order the “house wine” at a restaurant. This strategy frequently works well in wine regions. In Paris, it’s a bit more tricky and you may end up with rather unexciting wine.

What is your favorite French wine region and why?

I’m a big Northern Rhône fan. Mostly because I love their wines: Ermitage being probably my favorite all.

Tell me 2 things customers should do after one of your wine tastings?

1 – They should hang at the bar. We have 40 different wines by the glass. Great French tapas food, cheeses, foie gras… Our wine selection changes daily too. Hanging at the bar is a great way to relax, use their new found knowledge and get to chat a bit with the staff and the other clients of the tasting. Our groups are great because you find people from all over the world and what they have in common is that they like to drink wine!

2 – They should buy a bottle of two. Most of the wines we serve at the tasting are not available overseas.

What is your favorite city/region in France to visit and why?

Wow – tricky one. I don’t know. France is a fabulous country for that. I guess it really depends on the time of year, and on my mood. South of France in the Spring is fantastic. Brittany in the fall I love, Alsace in the winter is enchanting, and good old Paris in the summer…

If you’re not drinking wine, what are you drinking?

Mostly sparkling water.

What is your favorite wine that isn’t French?

I fell in love with the wines of Clarendon Hills in Australia. The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve of Robert Mondavi’s Winery are superb. So is Insignia by Joseph Phelps… I don’t know, I could go on and on…

As long as the wine is good and takes me somewhere, I’m happy. (Debbie here, that’s my motto too!)Wine tasting with O Chateau Paris France

When you’re not at O’Chateau, where will we find you?

These days, in bed mostly.

 

“O Chateau is a place that is open to everyone. To people who like wine, who love it, who are intrigued by it, who have no clue about it… “ 

Make your next stop O Chateau!

You can find more information about wine tastings with O Chateau at www.o-chateau.com

 

Full disclosure: A few years ago I was in Paris as a guest of the French Government Tourist Office which included the opportunity to take part in a wine tasting at O Chateau.

All photographs are courtesy of O Chateau.

Fabulous Friday – Gengenbach Calling!

A couple months ago I told you that pictures talk to me in a post titled Hallstatt Calling.  Today I am being called by another town – Gengenbach!

Gengenbach is a wonderful town in the Black Forest area of Germany and has been described as “a pearl among the cities of the half-timbered houses.”

As you will see, this bucolic village is a site for sore eyes.

Aldstadt Gengenbach Black Forest Germany

According to the Gengenbach tourist office “History breathes from every street, where the past meets the present: the preservation of traditions and customs is a responsibility its inhabitants readily and lovingly embrace.”

Indeed, Gengenbach has been around quite awhile.  The first settlement dates back to 73 AD and the town hall was built in 1784!

Gate in Gengenbach Black Forest Germany

Tradition is king here.

Christmas Market Gengenbach Black Forest Germany

There are many festivals held each year and the surroundings teem with fresh produce, rivers full of trout and vineyards.

Folk Costume parade Gengenbach Black Forest Germany

Yes there are culinary traditions to be had in Gengenbach accompanied with a variety of locally produced wine.

Schnaps Gengenbach Black Forest Germany

Gengenbach is surrounded by valleys, hills, lakes and rivers making this area a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

Deer Farm Gengenbach Black Forest Germany

After looking at these photographs provided by the Gengenbach Tourist Bureau, tell me Gengenbach isn’t calling you too?


 

 

Mont St Michel

The Grand Rue is full of souvenir shops and tourists but I didn’t seem to mind.  I just loved being inside the walls of this magnificent structure and was in awe of its impressive beauty .

As you climb the steep steps to the Abbey you will discover the stunning architecture Mont St Michel is famous for.

 

This medieval town is a wonder to behold.

 

Mont St Michel France

Have you been to Mont St Michel??

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!  Maybe I’ll see you there.

Facebook Advertising. . . Does It Work?

First let me start by saying, I don’t win anything!

So I was surprised when I received an email from John Rampton at Techiemania telling me I had won their contest of $50 in Free Advertising from Facebook.

This was very fortunate timing because Facebook was one of the items I needed to work on.

Before we get into that, let’s go back to the beginning. . .

European Travelista, the blog, showed up on the web mid-January 2011.  When I started this blogging adventure, I included a twitter account, Facebook fan page and a StumbleUpon profile.  Why?  Because that’s what I was told to do and I follow directions usually very well.

I had no clue what twitter was about or how to tweet.  No real clue what to do with my Facebook fan page and what is StumbleUpon??  So during these last few months I have set out to learn about each of these and for this old blogger, I had to do it one at a time.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started with Twitter thanks to a challenge given by Steve Roy from Ending the Grind.  Twitter √.

Then low and behold I won $50 in Facebook advertising, so it looked like Facebook was next!

Facebook Ads is very similar to Google Adwords.  You design an ad, set a daily limit you will pay per click, set a daily total amount you want to spend and then set the time frame you want to run your ad.  You also get to detail the type of person you want to see your ad.  I selected an age group and then a list of all the interests I wanted to include.  Using this information and the users Facebook profile and interests the ad would show up on those pages until the limits I had set were met.

It is very easy to set up, budget for and monitor.

Here is the ad I ran:Facebook Ad

So what were the results of running this ad for 5 days spending $10 per day?

My ad was shown 274,833 times, resulting in 56 clicks.  Of these 16 people took immediate action by “liking” my page and an additional 4 “liked” my page within 28 days of seeing the ad.

When the ad began running, there were 5 people “liking” my page.  At the end of the ad term, I had 27 “likees”.  Today the number of people “liking” my page has risen to 30.

So was this a success?European Travelista Facebook Page

I feel the answer is yes.  My “likees” increased by a whopping 540% (that sounds better than 22) due to the ad and there seems to be more people coming by and finding me.  I am not 100% sure at this point what this will mean to me in the long run but I know the whole goal is to have more people finding my blog and it does seem to be doing that.  I also don’t have a clue as to what the number of people “liking” my page should be for a new blogger.

Will I run another ad using my own money?

I’m actually considering it.  I am still struggling with posting regularly to my Facebook page and finding interesting things to include in these postings, so I will probably wait until I overcome this blockade.

 

Have you run a Facebook Ad?  What were your results?

If not, would you consider a Facebook Ad?

 

One more thing before you go, if you feel so inclined go to my Facebook page and Like Me!

A French Adventure in Aperitifs

For me, a part of traveling also includes enjoying local food and drink.

Since I am not the world’s most adventurous eater, the food part can be a bit tricky but I usually find a way to muddle through.

On the other hand, I would have to say that I am an adventurous drinker.  I may not really like a certain beverage but I am definitely up for trying it!  I mean when in Rome or Ireland or France you must do as the locals do!

Oh wait, you do realize I am referencing alcoholic beverages, right?  🙂

One of my favorite rituals I discovered while traveling in Europe is aperitifs.  There is something so refined, fun and very different by enjoying aperitifs prior to dinner.  My first foray into this new world of beverages was while on a trip in France.

Aperitif before diner in the garden

Aperitif before diner in the garden by DocteurCosmos

French aperitifs are regional cocktails enjoyed to start the dinner meal.  I really like the fact they are regional – something new no matter where I am!

Lillet and other aperitifs

Lillet and other aperitifs by Rob Ireton, on Flickr

One of my first aperitifs was Lillet.  This classic drink was invented in Bordeaux and is a blend of local wine and tropical and/or citrus fruits.  It can be either red or white.  On a trip to Bordeaux I was served a white Lillet which I enjoyed very much and would definitely have again.

Later down near Rocamadour, we were served a Champagne cocktail made with a regional walnut liqueur. Maybe this isn’t a true aperitif but it is really very good and a great way to enjoy regionally made liqueurs or bandies.  Armagnac, a brandy made in this same area, is another great additive to a Champagne cocktail!

Other French aperitifs include:

  • Byrrh a drink made of local red wine and tonic water from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
  • Kir is a cocktail from the Burgundy region made from white wine and Crème de Cassis.  If you’re feeling like a special treat mix the Kir with Champagne for a Kir Royale.  Delectable
    French aperitifs - Pastis

    Pastis by cyclonebill, on Flickr

    and invigorating!

  • Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region.
  • Chartreuse is a secret liqueur produced by the Chartreuse Monastery in the Alps.  This herbal drink comes in either a green or yellow version.
  • Pastis is an anise flavored liqueur from the Provence-Cote d’Azur region.  Pernod is a brand you may be familiar with.  Mix this liqueur with water and you’re ready to enjoy all the wonderful flavors of the liqueur.

After my adventure with aperitifs, I came home wondering why we don’t have aperitifs in the US.  Or is it just in California?  If I have a “cocktail” prior to dinner it is usually a glass of wine.  My parents still have a “cocktail” prior to dinner.  So when did this ritual go away?

Well I have to go now because I haven’t yet enjoyed all of these aperitifs and I have some work ahead of me!

 

Tell me about your experience with aperitifs.

Do you enjoy aperitifs before your dinner meal here in the US?

Beautiful Bavaria

Bavaria holds a very special place in my heart!  This picture was taken during my first trip to Germany and is a view of the scenery from Hohenschwangau Castle which is across the street from famed Neuschwanstein Castle.

This area is full of everything I love –  mountains, lakes, castles, beautiful scenery, great food, hiking opportunities and many places to rest after your day in the presence of such awesomeness!  Enjoy. . .

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!  Maybe I’ll see you there.

6 Walled Cities of Europe

Walled European cities have a romantic allure to them but if you think about it, there is nothing romantic about the reason the walls were needed in the first place.

These beautiful walls were erected as a defense from invaders.  They were used to squash and kill anyone trying to take over the town.  Literally, thousands have been killed at the base of the fortified walls, which were also used to regulate people and goods going in and out of the city.

Despite all of this, I am drawn to medieval walled cities.  Below are 6 walled cities in Europe that I would love spending time in wandering through their streets listening as the wind tells their story.

Medieval Carcassone France

Fortified cité of Carcassonne by thierry, on Flickr

Carcassonne France

Europe’s largest medieval fortress is Carcassonne.  Located in southwestern France, near the foot of the Pyrenees, Carcassonne rises above the lovely vineyards in the valley below.  The mighty walls were first erected by the Romans during the 1st century but the elements have taken their toll making it necessary to restore these walls to their magnificent beginnings.  Make sure you spend some time strolling through the impressive gates and cobblestoned streets stopping by the pleasing shops and restaurants.

Dubrovnik Croatia a medieval village

Dubrovnik Croatia by Rambling Traveler, on Flickr

Dubrovnik Croatia

To say that Dubrovnik is a beautiful city is truly an understatement.  This walled city at the southern end of Croatia sits like the beautiful star it is overlooking the Adriatic.  Heralded as the most beautiful spot in the Mediterranean, Croatia is filled with streets that are lined with Baroque buildings and is steeped in architectural wonders.  The Old Town of this stunning city is home to many churches, monasteries and fountains.  Make sure to leave time to enjoy views of the Adriatic by walking along the city’s intact walls.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bavaria Germany

Rothenburg Panorama courtesy of Bayern Tourismus

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany

Rothenburg holds a very special place in my heart.  During my first ever trip to Germany I visited Rothenburg and fell in love with this amazingly quaint village.  Yes it is touristy but it is worth every minute you will spend here.  Walking down cobblestoned streets you will be greeted by old houses, towers and gateways that have all withstood the test of time. At every corner you come face to face with the history this town has seen.  Be sure to enjoy walking the city walls, which almost circle the town, and from which you can get amazing views of the Tauber valley below.

Medieval York England

York Minster from the Roman walls by James Preston, on Flickr

York England

York welcomes those that love history.  This magical city hold much English history as it was the 2nd most important city in all of England at one point in history.  This historic town is surrounded by a 700 year old wall.  The grand cathedral of York, The Minster, looms above the city.    This gothic structure took over 250 years to complete and contains many stained glass windows along with the flying buttresses.  There is much to do in York but don’t forget to spend time wandering her narrow cobblestoned streets gazing at the timbered buildings.

Medieval Bruges Belgium

Bridge over Bruges Canal, Belguim by kevgibbo, on Flickr

Bruges Belgium

Two thousand year old Bruges is known as the Venice of the north due to the many canals gracing the city.  At one point in history, Bruges was the most important commercial city in Europe.  Walking the streets of Bruges is a great way to soak up the history that greets you at every turn.  Explore inside the city walls to see the churches, castle, romantic canals, chocolate shops, colorful homes and museums.  You can even visit the Diamond museum or the French fry museum!

Medieval Avila Spain

Ávila by valakirka, on Flickr

Avila Spain

As you approach Avila you will be treated to a very stimulating sight.  From a distance, you can see the 11th century fortress standing as it must have yesterday.  This is the oldest fortification in all of Spain and home to a gothic cathedral and striking 15th century houses.  The most fun is spending time strolling the old town with its cobblestone streets and abundance of plazas.  Don’t forget to look for the storks that make their home under the rooftops of the city.

 

Have you been to any of these medieval cities?

What other walled cities would you add to the list and why?

Brittany France – Sleeping in a Chateau

Thanks to “I’ll Never Be French” by Mark Greenside, Brittany has been on my mind these days.

Quite simply, Brittany is stunning.  This area southwest of Paris quite literally offers something for every person.  There are beaches, medieval villages, sailing, art, ceramic centers, prehistoric remains, castles, bicycling, botanical garden, Celtic history, cathedrals, walking, fishing . . . This landscape should not be missed and what could be better than spending your nights in lodging that offers a distinct ambiance?

Brittany France by cb_agulto, on Flickr

Brittany France by cb_agulto, on Flickr

There are quite a few great Chateaux turned B & B in Brittany each offering you the opportunity to lay your head for the night just like the nobility of yore!  The Chateau B & B’s are usually in rural areas near interesting tourist sites.  Your hosts offer guests insider tips on the museums and villages you simply must not miss as well as arrange horseback riding or golf or dinner reservations.  Or if you decide, you could just wander the land surrounding your Chateau.  It is really up to you.

Of the many choices you have for Chateau B & B’s, here are 3 to whet your appetite!

 

Chateau Le Guilguiffin Brittany France

Chateau Le Guilguiffin

Le Guilguiffin

Situated near Quimpers, the castle at Le Guilguiffin dates back to the 18th century and is classified as an historical monument. Tradition reigns here as the public rooms and bedrooms are tastefully decorated in a style befitting a building of this stature including antiques.   There are 4 rooms and 2 suites.  The property also offers the Gardeners House which is 2 stories, sleeps 5 and includes a fireplace, oozes charm and has a local flavor.  Guernevez cottage is another more rustic option that is a bit smaller – only 2 bedrooms. Another bonus, dogs are welcome!

Le Guilguiffin Room Brittany France

Courtesy of Le Guilguiffin

Room at Le Guilguiffin Brittany France

Courtesy of Le Guilguiffin

 

Chateau de Talhouet

This chateau dates back to the 16th century and is full of all the charm you’d expect while in Brittany.  As a special enticement, this B & B is near the glorious medieval village of Rochefort-en-Terre.  Set in its own private woods and gardens, Chateau de Talhouet has 8 rooms that are tastefully decorated in a comfortable but elegant fashion some include a fireplace but all have great views of the countryside, woods or garden.  There is a spectacular Grand salon and a Billiards salon where you may find yourself relaxing after a days sightseeing.

Coast line Brittany France

Coast line Brittany France by www.FranceHouseHunt.com, on Flickr

Chateau de La Ballue

This 17th century castle is known for its gardens but is also home to rolling hills, forests and the wild coastal landscape of Brittany.  Near the border of Normandy, Chateau de La Ballue’s gardens are done in the style of the 16th century and include a fernery, water trap, open air theater, maze and Temple of Diana among other treats.  This small B & B has 4 rooms and suite that are lovingly decorated in the style of the period and include antiques.  All rooms have canopy beds.  Famous guests of Chateau de La Ballue include Balzac, Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand.

Chateau de La Ballue Brittany France

Chateau de La Ballue

So there you have it, 3 outstanding Chateau B & B’s for your enjoyment.  Whether you come to Brittany for the scenery, history or its culinary delights this spirited region offers a great reward to all that explore its boundaries.

 

What do you think about staying in a Chateau B & B?