October 20, 2017

Easily Save Money While Traveling

Many cities in Europe offer tourists a city card which includes discounts or free admission to many of the local museums, castles, tours and some even include transportation.

Munich has one.  London has one.  Paris has one. Prague has one.  Innsbruck and Salzburg both offer one too!Eiffel Tower Paris France

Have you ever wondered if they are worth purchasing?

During my trip this summer I purchased cards in both Innsbruck and Salzburg and I can definitely tell you that the answer to the question is a definite . . . maybe!

Let’s look at the details of what they offered.Innsbruck Card Innsbruck Austria

The Innsbruck Card says it offers “free entrance to all museums and places of interest in and around the city.  Plus free use of cable cars, local public transport services, the “Sightseer” city tour bus and the “Kristallwelten Shuttle” bus, discounts on shopping, sports and fun.”

Due to my schedule I only had about 24 hours to enjoy Innsbruck on my own so I purchased a card for 24 hours which was 29 Euros.  It is important to note, these cards are good for 24 hours from the time you start your touring and not just 1 day.Innsbruck Austria

During my 24 hours I was able to visit the Hofburg, Hofkirche, Schloss Ambras, Swarovski Kristallwelten and the Nordkettenbahnen plus the buses getting to/from both Schloss Ambras and Swarovski Kristallwelten.  If I had purchased each of these separately I would have spent 64.50 Euros.

So in Innsbruck my 29 euro expenditure was worth every penny!

 

Salzburg Card Salzburg Austria

The Salzburg Card includes “. . . free admission to Salzburg’s museums, free use of the Fortress funicular, the Untersberg cableway, Salzach ship service and public transport. Salzburg Card holders can also take advantage of a number of discounts on concerts, theater performances or excursions to destinations in the Salzburg vicinity.”

I decided to purchase a 48 hour Salzburg Card for 34 Euros.  While in Salzburg not only did I visit many of the sights included for free; Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains, the Catacombs, Hohensalzburg Fortress and Cable Railway, Residenz Gallery and State Rooms and the Stiegl Brauwelt; but I also used the bus system fairly extensively getting to my hotel, Hanger 7, Stiegl Brauwelt, Hellbrunn and Augustiner Beer Gardens.  If I had not had the Salzburg Card I would have spent 58.70 Euros.Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountain Salzburg Austria

Again my expenditure was worth every penny!

Besides the savings both cards afforded me I enjoyed not waiting in line for tickets, not needing to carry so much cash, and the transit systems were very easy since I was able to get on the bus I wanted.

So why did I say they were maybe worth purchasing?

While in my case both cards were worth purchasing but every traveler or city may be different.  My advice is to look into the cards beforehand knowing what you would like to visit. Also make sure you temper your wants down a bit because reality can be a totally different thing! This is the only way you can see if it makes financial sense to purchase the cards.

I have heard that people don’t recommend purchasing these cards because the savings is only a few Euros.  I disagree.   Even if I had not saved any money on these cards, the ease of use at each site or transportation was well worth it, in my humble opinion!

 

Have you purchased any city cards?
Did you think they were worth it?

Five of the Best Sweet Treats to Try in Paris

Sweet Treats in Paris France

Sweet Treats in Paris by Canon s3

When strolling along famous Paris streets like the Champs-Elysées and Rue Royale, your nose will be assaulted by delicious odors wafting from some of the greatest bakers, confectioners and chocolatiers in France.

Don’t be tempted by imitators – when in Paris, go for the original and best creators of world-famous sweet treats. See the top five places to satisfy your sweet tooth and your sense of occasion below…

1)  for bonbons: l’Etoile d’Or

Bernachon chocolates Paris by Ricardo

Bernachon chocolates Paris by Ricardo

Denise Acabo’s knowledge of chocolate is the stuff of local legend and though the French may passionately debate about which type is their favourite, everyone agrees that the perfect delivery system for her chocolate masterpieces are her heavenly bonbons.

Although retired now, Denise’s enthusiasm for making the most delicious sweet treats in Paris still rules her shop, and those seeking the ultimate chocolate experience continue to make a beeline to her door despite all the competition this epicurean city has to offer.  Many chocoholics confess that l’Etoile d’Or is their first stop when they get to Paris to get their bonbon fix and last stop before they leave Paris so they can stock up!

Where: 30 Rue Pierre Fontaine

2)  for hot chocolate: Angelina Cafe

glorious angelina's hot chocolate Paris France

Glorious Angelina's Hot Chocolate by Ingrid

Even though it’s known as a tea salon, that is not what put the quaint little Angelina’s Cafe near the Jardin de Tuileries on the list of “must taste” treats in Paris – it is, undoubtedly, the hot chocolate.

You may wonder what is so special about this hot chocolate, but when it arrives at your marble top table on a gleaming silver tray with a separate cream decanter sporting a silver spoon, you’ll start get the picture. Chocolat L’Africain (African chocolate) is what made Angelina’s Café famous, which is why the recipe is still a closely guarded secret that you have to come all the way to Paris to try for yourself.

Even though the cafe offers delicious pastries to nibble as well as breakfast and lunch delights, true aficionados want nothing to interfere with the experience of savouring what many consider the most satisfying hot chocolate in the world.

Where:  226 Rue de Rivoli

3)  for a glazed croissant: Pierre Hermé

Pierre Hermé Croissant Paris France

Pierre Hermé Croissant by Michal

Often compared to a religious experience, the glazed croissants made by Pierre Hermé are described in decidedly ecstatic terms by visitors who have tasted the perfect blend of flaky pastry wrapped around a pate of rose essence covered with a delicate confectioner’s sugar glaze.

Almost too pretty to eat, the infamous glazed rose croissant with its crowning touch of candied rose petals is such a work of art that it is often photographed thoroughly by delighted visitors before it is cheerfully devoured.

But it gets even better, there are lots variations with subtle hints of almonds, raspberries and, of course, chocolate – giving the rose croissant experience the potential to take your taste buds to you to the realm of the profound.

Where:  185 Rue de Vaugirard and 72 Rue Bonaparte

4)  for ice cream: Berthillon

Berthillon ice cream Paris France

Berthillon Ice Cream by Maki

If you’re wrestling with the concept of “healthy ice cream”, head for the little island in the middle of the Seine where the Berthillon (don’t pronounce the “h”) Ice Cream Shop can be found and you will understand it makes perfect sense.

Known as the luxury ice cream of Paris, this sweet treat is not mass produced but only made locally for patrons who walk in the door. Using top-quality organic milk, eggs and cream is just the first step, adding in the right blend of unexpected fresh fruits like apples, oranges, pears and even grapes is their secret to concocting what are unanimously considered the most delicious ice creams and sorbets in all Paris – and that’s saying something.

Even if your taste is more to the plain vanilla variety, you’ll find your dream ice cream waiting in this deceptively ordinary atmosphere. The selection of rich flavours, creamy textures and delicious ice cream dishes have a magical quality that is so spellbinding it keeps you coming back for more, but to avoid disappointment don’t show up on Monday or Tuesday when the shop is closed – even ice cream wizards have to rest!

Where:  29-31 Île Saint-Louis

5)  for macaroons: Ladurée

Ladurée Paris France

Ladurée by Leo

The epitome of the restaurant for ladies who lunch, the famous Ladurée macaroons are what sets this little café chain apart from all the others.

Described by some as what happens when Willy Wonka meets Marie-Antoinette, this delicious decadence is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palette. Presented in a rainbow of colours that coordinate with the filling’s taste, these one-of-a-kind macaroons are crisp on the outside, smooth on the inside and bursting with flavour.

Ladurée macaroons are not, however, served fresh from the oven but sit patiently for two days so the creamy ganache filling sandwiched between two crispy cakes can achieve the optimum blend of texture and flavour – they’ve obviously got this down to an art.

Sweet-tooths beware, they have positioned their shops within walking distance of each other in the heart of Paris because they know once you’ve tried their macaroons, you’ll be drawn back for more like a moth to a flame.

Where:  75 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 13 Rue Lincoln, 6 Rue Royale and 64 Boulevard Haussmann

About the Author: Lela Lake writes for AnyTrip.com, the Paris budget travel specialists. Check out AnyTrip’s collection of cheap Paris hotels, or check out their Love Paris competition for the chance to win one of four trips to Paris (until 30/09/11).

 

Off the Beaten Path – The French Basque Region

I have been fortunate to travel in some wonderful areas of Europe.  Some  are the tried and true tourist areas and others are lesser known and less traveled areas, at least to Americans.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit one of these “off the beaten path” destinations in France. The French Basque Region is an area not regularly frequented by Americans.  I find it interesting that Americans tend to spend their time in more well-known destinations – Paris, Rome, Florence, London or Munich – but don’t venture to some of the lesser known areas. I really have no clue why this is but wonder if US travelers view their European trip is a once in a lifetime event and must cram as much in as possible and, therefore, only hit the highlight.  Or is it because they are trendy spots and ones they must visit or they are just not “with it”?

No matter the reason, I truly enjoy getting “off the beaten path” and enjoy areas not on the usual tourist track.   It is one of these that I want tell you about.

I had the pleasure to spend a week in the French Basque region specifically the area between Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz a few years ago with the French Government Tourist Bureau. This trip was busy and I didn’t get do some extensive exploring but I definitely came away wanting to spend more time in this beautiful less traveled area.

Basque vista Southwest France

Basque Hills

The Southwest corner of France, from Bayonne to St. Jean de Luz, offers something for everyone. Whether you want beautiful beaches or rolling green hills, sleepy villages or towns of international renown; you can find it all in this striking region. The coastal villages offer dramatic sandy beaches, fishing ports, beautiful architecture and storied histories.

Bayonne France

Bayonne

Bayonne is the capital of the region and is known for its narrow streets, cathedral and chocolate. Bayonne was the first city in France to make chocolate  dating way back to the early 1600’s. Wandering the streets will offer ample opportunities to sample the wonderful chocolate of Bayonne.

Biarritz Seaview France

Biarritz

Once a whaling village, Biarritz is now a resort to the rich and famous. Biarritz was the summer home of Eugenie and Napoleon and you can still see the impact of this in the stunning Hotel du Palais. Biarritz offers shopping, scenic views, museums and more. You will enjoy wandering the charming old town. After enjoying the sights which include a lighthouse and a Chocolate museum, you may want to spend some time in the casino before turning in for the night.

St Jean du Luz French Basque region

St Jean du Luz by marsupilami92, on Flickr

St. Jean de Luz is an enchanting town offering a sandy beach, picturesque harbor, outdoor cafes, architectural gems and a quaint town square. St. Jean de Luz is another great strolling town with beautiful narrow streets.

Basque Farm in Southwest France

Basque Farm

The French Basque have a well preserved culture and once you start moving inland you sense a more Basque feel to the environs. Moving inland you will find rolling green hills, peace and quiet, tradition and villages called “most beautiful villages in France.”

Scenic Basque Country France

Scenic Basque Country

Driving inland you will meet charming villages like Ascain, Sare and Ortillopitz. The storybook quality of this area make drives through the region an amazing journey. The discoveries you will find include churches, distinctive Basque architecture, lush countryside, vineyards, farms, pilgrimage routes and spectacular vistas. If you are a walker, you will be able to find many walking routes.

This section of France left a definite impression on me and I intend on returning.

 

What “off the beaten path” destinations have impacted you?

5 Cities To Take a Walk In

While I am in Europe I am hoping to take a few new walking tours and will share them with you when I get back.  For now, lets dig a little deeper into the archives and discover walking tours in 5 European cities!

A fairly recent new love of mine is walking tours. My love for walking tours began when my daughter went off to college and I needed to get out of my empty nest! Since I live in the San Francisco bay area, my husband and I headed off and enjoyed a fantastic walking tour of Nob Hill. Since then I have enjoyed many walking tours and look forward to new walking adventures in any city I visit.

To me, a walking tour allows you to really get to know a neighborhood at a much slower pace. I feel the amount of area covered is more limited allowing for a more in depth look into the subject of the walk. I have found the guides to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject. You can find walking tours in larger cities covering a vast range of topics – some are even free!

So to inspire you to walk a bit, I picked 5 European cities to begin a list of walking tour companies. Guides from all companies listed are from all walks of life (no pun intended) including historians, literary experts, art historians, performers and authors. Most of the tours listed do not require reservations, however, some do have minimums so look for this when deciding on the tour you will enjoy.

House of Parliament London

House of Parliament London by cookipediachef, on Flickr

London:

London Walks is a company offering many walking tours covering the neighborhoods of London. Their tours include: The Secrets of Westminster Abbey (From Opus Dei & Death’s Palace to The Da Vinci Code), The Beatles ‘In My Life’ Walk, The Hidden Pubs of Old London Town, Ghosts Gaslight & Guinness, and The Blitz – London at War. There is no need to book ahead and most walking tours are priced at 8£ (about $15). The biggest problem with this company is which tour to choose??

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Eiffel Tower

Paris :

Paris Walks offers many walking tours covering many of the wonderful neighborhoods Paris is so famous for. You could enjoy The Medieval Latin Quarter, The French Revolution, a Fashion Walk, the Village of Montmartre, Hemingway’s Paris or even a Chocolate walking tour! Again, the cost for these walking tours is quite reasonable at 12 € (about $16). Sign me up for the Chocolate tour! Is there a better way to enjoy chocolate and work off the calories at the same time?

Prague Czech Republic

Prague by photojenni, on Flickr

Prague:

Learn about all that makes Prague famous by taking one of these walking tours from Prague Walks: Prague Castle Walk, Jewish Prague, Ghost Walk, Pubs of the Old Town and the Best of Prague, which also includes lunch and a river cruise. Prices range from 300 czk to 890 czk (from $17 to $50 for the Best of Prague). A few of these tours have minimums so be sure to check their website for more details. For you early risers, they offer a Good Morning Walk where you will be able to enjoy Prague before the crowds are even up!

 

Brandenburg Gate Berlin Germany

Brandenburg Gate Berlin by Bernt Rostad, on Flickr

Berlin:

Original Berlin Walks offers tours that help you discover Berlin and its storied history. You may decide to choose one of these tours: Discover Berlin Tour, Infamous Third Reich Sites, Jewish Life in Berlin and Nest of Spies Tours. These tours are 12 € ($16). While looking at their website, I noticed their guides list their favorite restaurants which I think is a real bonus. . . local recommendations can’t be beat!

Marienplatz Munich Germany

Marienplatz Munich by JoeDuck, on Flickr

Munich:

Munich Walk Tours offers a unique way to learn about Munich and its history and culture. Walking tours include: Bavarian Food Tasting & Viktualienmarkt, Haunted Munich Ghost Tour, Beer and Brewery Tour (you are in Munich!), Hitler’s Munich (aka Third Reich Tour) and The City Walk & English Garden tour. These tours range in price from 12 €22 € ($16-$30). Munich Walk Tours also offer a couple bike riding tours, which is my next “adventure” to tackle.

There you have it, 5 cities 5 different walking tour companies. Try one, you won’t be disappointed. This list is not complete and inclusion here does not mean an endorsement is being made.

I do, however, suggest you venture out and walk a bit. . .


Have you taken a walking tour?

Which walking tour would you most like to enjoy??

Night Train to Paris

As I prepare for my trip to Europe, I wanted to share this guest post with you.  Jesse Langley will transport you with him as he takes a night train to Paris!

The sun hung hot in the late afternoon sky and my clothing clung to me with varying degrees of dampness. Even my linen pants were moist. I had escaped the cold gray drizzle of Amsterdam the month before. After a detour into Germany to visit some old university buddies for a week I had continued south through France until arriving in Montpellier. Three weeks of studying French had given me a case of verb conjugation confusion and a serious addiction to mussels covered in stinky cheese. Besides, I had played hooky long enough and had some serious academic work cut out for me in Edinburgh. But Edinburgh wasn’t going anywhere any time soon and Paris was sort of on the way. Besides, not stopping in Paris when I was this close would be a crime.

 St-Clément Aqueduct Montpellier France

Montpellier Aqueduct by jparise, on Flickr

As I walked past the old Roman aqueduct under the load of my heavy backpack I stopped long enough to wipe sweat out of my eyes and admire the aqueduct’s engineering. I looked at the sturdy Roman lines and the pristine condition of the aqueduct and briefly wondered why we still have problems building sturdy roads in the states. I limped into the train station determined to never load so much into a backpack. I guess that’ll require a smaller backpack. The gendarmerie was trying to inconspicuously scan for suspicious passengers from the balcony in the train station but the German Shepherds kind of blew their cover. The French police don’t do inconspicuous well, but at least they’re better than the Italians.

I waited for the one o’clock to Paris in the shade of the station. When it pulled in and was ready for boarding I was the first one in. I had learned the hard way on the stretch from Cologne to Montpellier that stragglers with enormous backpacks will always suffer if the luggage rack in the corner of the train car gets full. There is no humanly possible way to stuff seventy-five pounds of pack in an overhead bin. I got my backpack securely stowed, found my seat and plugged in my headphones. As the train left the station Bob Dylan was mumbling his way through Stuck in Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again and Montpellier began to recede into the distance.

Eiffel Tower Paris France at sunrise

Eiffel Tower by Tristan Nitot

I fell asleep and when I woke the sun was hanging just over the mountains to the west painting the peaks in brilliant shades of oranges and pinks. I made my way to the bar car for a drink and sat near the bar sipping a glass of wine and watching the sun through the bar car window as it slowly sank below the mountains until they were silhouettes. I finished my wine and made my way back to my seat. The train car was quiet except for the soft snoring of passengers so I worked for a while with my dissertation on Joyces’s Ulysses until my eyelids got heavy again. I opened my eyes as the train began to slow coming into the Paris Gare du Nord station.

I collected my backpack and hailed a cab. The taxi driver’s English was actually worse than my French, and I was pleased that he understood the hotel directions I gave him on the first try. We chatted as much as my horrible French would allow until we got to the hotel. Upon arrival I paid him an extra four Euros for putting up with my mangled conjugations. The interior of the hotel lobby was high-ceilinged and airy. I waited while the young woman behind the counter checked my name against the reservations before producing a gigantic old fashioned skeleton key. I thanked her and headed for my room. Inside the hotel room large windows were open outwards and a light breeze blew softly and rustled the pulled back linen curtains. Just visible in the distance the Arc de Triomphe glowed against the night sky lit from underneath with spotlights.

Arc Triomphe Paris France at night

Arc Triomphe by Benh LIEU SONG

I took a quick hot shower and wiped the steam off the mirror for a quick shave. I rooted around in the backpack until I found a pair of linen pants with the fewest wrinkles. I put on a clean white oxford and stepped into a pair of bright red espadrilles. After a quick look in the mirror I wiped a wisp of shaving cream off my ear and put the skeleton key in my left pants pocket where I noted with disapproval that it caused the pocket to sag under its weight. I walked out past the check-in counter and noticed that the young woman who had given me my key had a pixie haircut and looked like a young Audrey Hepburn like so many French women do. I had a hankering for a croissant and a good cup of coffee, so I continued out the lobby into the balmy Paris night to look for a late night café and a conversation.

 

Ah Paris, Tell us about a favorite memory you have of Paris!

 

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He is an advocate for online education and has a keen interest in blogging and social media.

European Villages Discovered-Kuressaare

Europe is home to many world famous cities; Paris, London, Prague and Munich to name a few.  We have all visited or dream of visiting these cities but there are many more small villages that offer travelers a closer look into the culture of the country.  There are even some that may be labeled as “secret” because they are not on the normal tourist routes.

I thought it would be fun to open the door on a few of these “secret” villages.

First up is a wonderful village on Estonia’s largest island, Saaremaa.

Kuressaare on Saaremaa Island of Estonia

by ** Maurice **, on Flickr

Estonia may not be Europe’s best kept secret anymore but Kuressaare is one of Estonia’s.  This lovely village has a feeling that time has stood still and, if this is true, we have the Soviets to thank. During the 1940’s they closed the island, Saaremaa, to all foreigners and most Estonians.  So for 50 years Kuressaare was isolated allowing for its small town feel to remain intact.

Kuressaare church Saaremaa Estonia

Church by Ivo Kruusamägi via Wikimedia

This favored summer get-away was reopened in 1991 and the charms of Kuressaare can once again be enjoyed.  Long summer days and warm weather make this a favored spot.  There are many beaches to enjoy and swim in.  I didn’t know this but the Baltic has a lower salinity level due to the amount of fresh water that flows into it! So swimming in the Baltic won’t leave you with the icky crusty salt feeling.  The weather during the summer months averages in the low 70’s making it not balmy but an enjoyable temperature.

Kuressaare Castle Saaremaa Estonia

Kuressaare Castle & Park by Erik Christensen

What else can you find in Kuressaare?

  • The best preserved medieval castle in the Baltic’s sits at the waterfront and will make all castle lovers happy!  Wander the halls and make your way to the fortifications for amazing views!  While visiting the castle
    Suur Toll Sculpture Kuressaare Estonia

    Suur Toll Sculpture by Beentree via wikimedia

    make sure to visit the regional museum with its own creepy legends.

  • For peaceful way to spend an afternoon, rent a row boat and float in the lake surrounding the castle.
  • Golfers can enjoy a round on the 18 hole golf course.
  • Walking around town you will find some interesting and unique sculptures including the Suur Toll which depicts one of Saaremaa’s heroes.
  • Spend time wandering the historic buildings and churches nestled in the Keskvaljak square area.  Many date back to the 1670’s.
  • The city is flat and, therefore, very friendly to bikers.  Grab a picnic and take off to explore on your own.
  • Kuressaare also has a spa offering a bit of pampering.  How about a bath full of coastal mud?
  • Enjoy the many restaurants, shops, museums and galleries waiting to be sampled.

What do you think?  Could you see yourself wandering Kuressaare?

Classic and Powerful: Neoclassical Architecture

A few months ago I started a series on the different architecture styles travelers usually come across in Europe.  So far we have covered Gothic  (Gothic Architecture of Europe), Romanesque (If it’s Tuesday, it must be Romanesque!), Baroque (Baroque: The Emotional Style), and Rococo (Rococo – Flirty & Decadent).

Continuing with this series, today’s post will delve into discovering Neoclassical architecture. This style came to prominence during the mid-18th century to make a symbolic statement against the extravagances of the past age.

Arc de Triomphe Paris France

Arc de Triomphe by Benh LIEU SONG

You could say Neoclassical architecture is the antithesis of Baroque and Rococo!  These styles were seen as over-the-top, shallow and the styles of aristocrats.  With the end of the French Revolution came a desire to move away anything having to do with “the regime” and towards a pure style, that of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Neoclassical architecture is very similar to the classical structures of Italy and Greece in its simplicity, symmetry and functionality.  Even though the style is the complete opposite of Rococo, it still is evocative and picturesque but in a self-restrained way.

Structures from the Neoclassical time will include most (if not all) of the following attributes:

Tall columns,

Vilnius Cathedral Lithuania

Vilnius Cathedral by Juliux

Clean basic lines replacing curves,

Prado Madrid Spain

Prado Madrid Spain by Fanghong

Shape is symmetric,

Marynkas Palace in Pulawy Poland

Marynkas Palace in Pulawy Poland by Ghalas

Domed roof, and

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki Finland

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki Finland by Purpy Pupple

Triangular pediment.

Pantheon Paris France

Pantheon Paris France by Kpjas

All of this together reflects the virtue, philosophy and harmony of ancient Italy and Greece.  In this style, the emphasis is on enriching and influencing lives instead of frivolous aesthetics and can be seen in libraries, schools, banks, capital building and monuments.

The imposing structures convey a feeling of superiority in an intimidating manner.  This commanding presence was seen as way to demonstrate state power and was one of the reasons Napoleon used it so widely in Paris.    Taking it further, Neoclassical architecture was the favored style of Hitler and the leaders in communist Russia.

Ostankino Palace in Moscow Russia

Ostankino Palace in Moscow Russia by Ghirlandajo

Even though you may not have known the name of this style, I know you have seen it in Europe and across the world!

 

Do you have a favorite Neoclassic building or monument?

Viva La France-Back to Burgundy!

As we saw in my post Burgundy France – Land of Plenty, there are a lot of reasons to visit Burgundy and one of them is definitely the quaint, captivating, enchanting, picturesque, and charming villages that dot the countryside of this region southeast of Paris, France.

Here are 7 that fit the endearing, remarkable, wonderful and special category.

Semur-en-Auxois

Semur-en-Auxois Burgundy France

Semur-en-Auxois

Artists flock here to gather inspiration from this medieval jewel. This village is full of grand houses, narrow and cobbled streets, cafes and shops. Wander through the medieval gateway on your way to visit Chocolatier Bruno Coeur who was part of the movie Chocolat. No visit is complete without a visit to the gothic church, fortified castle or crossing one of the bridges spanning the Armancon River. A stroll along the ramparts offers amazing vistas!

Bligny-sur-Ouche

If you enjoy old villages,  this is the one for you. Dating back to prehistory (the first mention was in 800’s) Bligny holds a marvelous 12th century church and many vestiges of yesterday – a sundial, wood gutters, crucifixes, washing wells and water mills. Enjoy a ride on a steam engine or visit the Hemp and Woodworking museums.

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois

Overlooking the Canal du Bourgogne is the fortified village known locally as just Chateauneuf. This is one of those medieval villages that will transport you back to the Middle Ages upon arriving! Besides the normal narrow streets and alleyways, shops, restaurants and arts and crafts, this village has a magical castle at its center. After visiting the 12th century Chateau de Chateauneuf-en-Auxois that is when it is time to wander the medieval streets before stopping to enjoy the atmosphere of this beautiful village.

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois Burgundy France

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois Panorama by Christophe.Finot

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain

Built on top of a hill, the village people work hard to preserve the history found in Favigny. Another village with ties to the movie

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain castle Burgundy France

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain Castle by Christophe.Finot

Chocolat, this medieval marvel is surrounded by 3 streams and has many alleys and walkways that lead past interesting architecture at every turn. Make sure to visit the Benedictine Monastery with its Carolingian crypt and the local confection, Anise of Flavigny. If you are lucky you may experience some Gregorian chants!

Vezelay

Sitting high atop a hill, this town has an enchanting feel to it. This pilgrimage city offers strollers a chance to explore the alleyways and courtyards while gazing at the preserved 15th, 16th and 17th century houses. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is also home to one of the most beloved churches in France; the Romanesque Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene. Its relics

still draw many visitors today. In 1190, Vezelay is also the place where King Phillip Auguste of France met up with Richard the Lionheart of England before departing for the 3rd crusade.

Martailly-les-Brancion

Everything here is medieval! This village has truly preserved its history and it is waiting for you to explore. It all starts with the amazing views as you drive up the steep road leading first to the castle. Dating back to the 10th century this castle still has preserved walls and turrets. Continuing into the village, you will find a 12th century Romanesque Church, 14th century covered market and many medieval houses to marvel at.

Martailly-les-Brancion Burgundy France

Martailly-les-Brancion by D Villafruela

Noyers-sur-Serein

One of the more picturesque villages in the region, Noyers’ has a very well preserved medieval center dating back to the 15th century. Inside the town walls, you will find 78 monuments that have been classified as historic which include the remains of a castle, church, town hall and a 19th century public washing area. Wandering the cobbled streets you will find beautiful half-timbered houses, medieval squares and arches. There is also a very nice river walk outside the walls.

Noyer-sur-Serein Burgundy France

Noyer-sur-Serein by Palamède

There are many other gorgeous villages that could have made this list,

What did I leave off?

Fabulous Friday – European Tidbits

Europe is a fun and fascinating place and on the Fabulous Friday I thought I’d share some fun and interesting facts about the European Continent!

Dune Pilat Southwest France

Dune Pilat by Cehagenmerak

  • Europe is the 2nd smallest continent yet is the 3rd most populated
  • There are no deserts on the continent of Europe
  • In 1989, Hungary became the first communist-block country to open its borders with Western Europe
  • At one time, 80%-90% of Europe was covered in forests.  Today it is about 3%
  • Paris is Europe’s largest city
  • Dune du Pilat is the largest sand dune in Europe.  It is 100 meter high, 500 meters wide and stretches 3 kilometers along the Southwest coast of France
  • Due to the movement in the sand of the Dune du Pilat, France is moving inland 7 meters each year
  • The little blue cartoon creatures known as Smurfs are Belgian, created by Peyo
  • There are palm trees in Switzerland
  • Europe is home to the worlds smallest country – Vatican City – and home to the largest country – Russia
  • The natural boundary between Europe and Asia is the Ural mountains
  • Ireland consumes the most beer per person with Germany coming in second

    Ural Mountains

    Ural Mountains by Hardscarf

 

What other interesting tidbits about Europe do you have to share?

Baroque: The Emotional Style

The last few months we discovered more about Romanesque and Gothic architecture.  Today it is time to delve into Baroque architecture. As usual, I have included pictures of European gems in this style.

Queluz Palace fountains Portugal

Queluz Palace fountains Portugal by Husond

Baroque architecture came to prominence during the 17th century.  Starting in Italy before spreading first to France and then the rest of Europe, this style can best be described as showing majesty, opulence and radiance both in design and size.

Castle Howard, North Yorkshire England

Castle Howard, North Yorkshire England

The dramatic intensity of this style indicates supremacy.  The ornamentation showing up in the style indicates both the emotion of the era but also wealth and power.  At this time, the Church and Kings once again were given absolute power.  This power was manifested through this architectural style both in churches, cathedrals and palaces.

Wilanów Palace in Warsaw Poland by Wistula

Wilanów Palace in Warsaw Poland by Wistula

 

Vierzehnheiligen Basilika near Bamberg Bavaria Germany
Vierzehnheiligen Basilika near Bamberg Germany by Asio otus

 

Some distinctive features of the Baroque style include:
  • Naves of churches are wider and sometimes oval
  • There is a dramatic use of light either by contrasting shade and light or by including several windows
  • Large ceiling frescoes are prominent
  • There is an exuberant use of color and embellishment
  • Structures have a dramatic central projection
  • Domes appear pear shaped especially in Bavarian, Czech, Polish and Ukrainian design.
  • Curves became more important than the straight line
Karlskirche Vienna Austria

Karlskirche Vienna Austria by Gryffindor

Famous architects during the Baroque period include:  Carlo Maderno (Italy), Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italy), Francois Mansart (France) and Christopher Wren (England).

St Paul's Cathedral London

St Paul's Cathedral by stusmith_uk, Flickr

Chateau de Maison Lafitte France

Chateau de Maison Lafitte France

Facciata di San Pietro Rome Italy

Facciata di San Pietro Rome Italy by Urby2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the magnificent Baroque buildings we marvel at during our travels were designed and built by these illustrious architects.  Thanks to these visionaries of the past we are still able to visit their creations and explore the history created there.

 

What is your favorite Baroque building?

What is your favorite architectural style?