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The Diamant, Island Windjammers' 12-passenger sailing ship. Photo from Island Windjammers

The Diamant, Island Windjammers’ 12-passenger sailing ship. Photo from Island Windjammers

How you get to where you’re going can be just as crucial to the success of your trip as the destination itself.

And in some cases, the mode of transport is, in effect, the destination.

Ocean cruises are an obvious example of the latter.

When you choose to see the world by cruise ship, you’re committing yourself  to spending most of your time at sea and limiting your sightseeing on land to ports or places that are within a few hours’ drive by tour bus,  taxi, or rental car from the ports.

But ocean- and sea-going vessels come in many shapes and forms — from small sailing ships to  floating behemoths  — that can make for entirely different journeys themselves.

Or say you want to take the Trans-Siberian Express (train) from China to… Continue reading

Mont-Saint-Michel is a remarkable sight as you approach. Photo from Normandy Tourist Board.

Mont-Saint-Michel is a remarkable sight as you approach. Photo from Normandy Tourist Board.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a soft spot for off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Yes, I love Paris and Venice and London, but I also like to explore the lesser-known out-of-the-wsy places that many travelers never reach.

Once years ago, I  set off by train from Paris to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, a medieval abbey off the coast of Normandy that I had read about in college in the Henry Adams’ book, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.

The trip took two full days because the train connections were awful, but I made it, and didn’t regret it. It’s a dramatically situated Gothic masterpiece, rising atop a rocky island with a maze of narrow streets surrounding it.

Traditionally, Mont-Saint-Michel has only been reachable by land when the tides are out, via squishy mud flats. When the tides come in,… Continue reading

A dramatically perched fortress tops Mount Titano. Photo by Catharine Norton.

A dramatically perched fortress tops Mount Titano. Photo by Catharine Norton.

In a recent post, I noted that the tiny Republic of San Marino, which is entirely surrounded by Italy, was number one on my personal bucket list.

The main reason was that it was the only country in Western Europe that I hadn’t visited, and that since I would be visiting Italy soon, I could then cross it off my list. Of course, I also wanted to go for all the reasons I want to go anywhere — seeing what there is to see and, I hope, enjoying it — but I admit the list thing was the top consideration.

As it happens, I did visit Italy shortly after the post appeared, and I did make it to San Marino — whose irresistible full name is The Most Serene Republic of San Marino.

And — as a… Continue reading

0b4623e5-a51d-46e8-8c66-a40b164f4a3fI recently came across a clever ad that I love. It’s from a North Carolina- and Italy-based tour agency called Italian Journeys, and the ad is called “Italy Aptitude Exam.

It features a number of “exam” questions that, in a humorous way,  are designed to get you thinking about whether you’d rather spend this January in Italy — on their 10-day tour of Rome and Naples called “Fundamental Italy” — or back home in the U.S. in the dead of winter.

Illustrated with photos old and new, the exam asks you to choose between, among other things, shoveling snow or standing in the sunshine overlooking Rome’s Tiber River; having a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or a cappuccino; eating American fast food or Italian pasta; and viewing a smoggy American city or what looks to be a dreamy photo of the Isle of… Continue reading

Punakha monastery, Bhutan Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Punakha monastery, Bhutan Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

In our last two posts, we took a look at some of the most popular travel-related bucket list destinations and activities based on a survey of 1,000 travelers by the website TotallyMoney.com. You can view those results, and my comments, by clicking here and here.

While my own experiences with a few of the items — such as gambling in Las Vegas — were on the margins (in the case of Vegas, dropping a few quarters into slot machines), I had pretty much done all those on the list.

My own bucket list tends to be a little quirkier than most. Places that end up on my list are pretty far-flung, represent something I’ve missed in past trips, or are just items that fulfill my admittedly peculiar travel obsessions. (I suspect that a lot of baby boomer frequent travelers’ lists are… Continue reading

Florence's Ponte Vecchio, medieval bridge over the Arno River. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, medieval bridge over the Arno River. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

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Santorini's harbor is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that wiped out Minoan civilization. Photo from Visit Greece.

Santorini’s harbor is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that wiped out Minoan civilization. Photo from Visit Greece.

Here’s Part 2 of our two-part series on Ten Top European Natural Wonders, starring five more incredibly scenic spots on land, on water, and up in the sky:

The Greek Island of Santorini 

If you bypass the often-crowded Aegean island of Santorini — also known as Thira or, in ancient times, Thera — due to its popularity as a sun-soaked tourist destination, you’ll also be missing one of the most memorable and expansive seascape panoramas in all of Europe.

Few views can compete with those from a terrace perched high atop the cliffs overlooking Santorini’s deep, seven-by- four-mile circle-shaped lagoon, formed from a mostly underwater caldera left by a titanic volcanic explosion some 36 centuries ago. One of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in history, it wiped out the island’s… Continue reading

Norwegian fjords are among Europe's most scenic sights. Photo from VisitNorway.com.

Norwegian fjords are among Europe’s most scenic sights. Photo from VisitNorway.com.

Europe is rich with natural wonders – from lakes and mountains to islands, river valleys and seaside vistas.  You can even find them in the skies above.

Since any Top Ten list would be totally arbitrary, we’ll stick to a “Ten Top” list, with the understanding that more such lists could – and no doubt will – be on their way in the future.

Several of these natural wonders are familiar names; others may be new to you. But they’re all fully deserving of the title – and a visit.

Here are the first five of the ten; the remaining five will appear in my next post.

The Fjords of Norway

 They go by differing names like the Sognefjord, Aurlandsfjord, Trollfjord, and the Hardangerfjord, but they all have one feature in common: these slivers of deep-blue water… Continue reading

Last of a 3-part series.

In our first post in this series, we began our quick guide to the 12 most popular European cruising rivers, starting with the Danube, Rhine, Seine, and the Volga and other Russian waterways — probably the best known of the top cruising rivers in Europe.

In our second post, we’ took a look at four more rivers  (actually five rivers and one canal) ranging from France to Portugal, Germany and the Czech Republic to Sweden.

In this third post, we’ll complete the top 12 list with cruising rivers in Spain, Germany-Luxembourg, Italy, and, once again, France.

Spain’s Guadalquivir

Seville, Spain's, Plaza de Espana. Photo from Seville Tourism.

Seville, Spain’s, Plaza de Espana. Photo from Seville Tourism.

A Guadalquivir cruise offers one of the most pleasant ways to explore Andalusia – Spain’s southernmost province and site of some of the country’s most fabled cities. The river itself, though one of… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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