"We had an awesome trip and it was hard to come back. Thanks again for all you did in setting everything up. We think the trip was a perfect mix of planned activities and down time to relax and explore things on our own. August, the tour guide, was really helpful and stayed with us through the whole trip for all of the excursions.
We really liked both hotels and all the planned activities. The only suggestion we would have for future guests who go to Bali would be to not do the sunset dance performance in Uluwatu. The performance was great and the view was gorgeous but it was super packed and with the heat it was too crowded. At the advice of August we also went to a barong dance performance that was really fun and not as crowded that we would highly recommend. We also happened to see a local dance competition in the city of Ubud by the art market which was neat.
My favorite parts of the trip were our gorgeous balcony view in Ubud, the monkey forest, the sailing trip, and the pools. I thought the beaches when we went on the sailing trip were the most beautiful....
We thank you again for all you did and will definitely reach out to you again the next time we plan a big trip!!
Alexandria and Ankoor"
My husband, Alan, and I had traveled to Northern and Western Europe, but have always had Eastern Europe on our bucket list. I know that my heritage is rooted in Germany, while his family tree extends to Czechoslovakia and Hungary from as early as the 16th century. Last August, we took a river cruise in the Bordeaux region of France and met a wonderful group of seasoned travelers, who all told us that the Danube River cruise was one of their favorite trips. I was excited to begin planning our next adventure and knew Avalon Waterways had what we were looking for.
August 19-20, 2017
On Saturday, we boarded a Lufthansa flight to Munich and had a short layover before reaching Budapest on Sunday, where our cruise would be departing from on Tuesday. Upon our arrival, we were greeted outside the baggage claim by an Avalon Waterways representative, who guided us to the shuttle that would be taking us to our hotel. Little did we know, we were arriving on the most celebrated holiday in Hungary, St. Stephen’s Day (similar to our 4th of July)! Traffic was a little crazy but eventually we arrived.
We stayed at the Sofitel Chain Bridge, which was located on the Pest side of Budapest, right on the Danube River. We had a gorgeous view from the room and would absolutely stay there again if we find ourselves in Budapest.
After a quick meeting with our Avalon tour director, Roos (pronounced “Rose”), we walked just a few blocks from our hotel and found a pedestrian area that was filled with restaurants and outdoor seating. We watched a wonderful parade that ended at St. Stephen’s Basilica. We decided to grab a seat for dinner before the crowd dispersed and made our way to the restaurant Aszu, which had a great selection of traditional Hungarian fare and a few more familiar dishes. Both of us ordered the Paprika Chicken and it was delicious.
After dinner, we strolled down the street that followed the river and watched a spectacular fireworks show over the Chain Bridge in celebration of St. Stephen’s Day.
August 21, 2017
Monday morning began with a guided City Tour that touched on Heroes Square and the Dohany Street Synagogue on the Pest side then Buda Castle and Matthias Church on the Buda side. In the afternoon, we went on a culinary tour with 6 other couples. We walked for a total of about three hours, and stopped at a traditional butcher, a wine and cheese shop, and an ice cream parlor.
After the tour we split off from the group and walked across the Chain Bridge back to the “Buda” side to do some more exploring. We walked around the Buda Castle before finding dinner. I was excited to try the traditional Hungarian Goulash (beef stew), which lived up to my expectations. It was a beautiful evening with the “Pest” side of Budapest as the backdrop. It was certainly a photo opportunity!
August 22-23, 2017
Before leaving Budapest later in the afternoon, we took some time to visit the House of Terror. One of the saddest museums and memorials I have ever seen. It is full of exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes of 20th century Hungary. Certainly something to make you think. What seems so foreign to us is still so fresh in the minds of the people of Hungary.
We met up with 10 other couples for a tour of the countryside that included stops and wine tastings at two different vineyards as well as a gourmet lunch prepared by the owner of the second vineyard. Everything was delicious and everyone in the group was becoming fast friends.
Our home for the next seven days was the Avalon Visionary, a small ship carrying 115 guests on board. Avalon is the only cruise line with beds facing a wall of windows, so we were eager to take advantage of the scenic experience. We sailed all night and through the next day. We took advantage of the outstanding weather and had lunch on the top deck of the ship, while watching the small towns of Hungary and Slovakia pass by. We have already met so many nice people from every corner of the world: Australia, Belize, Canada, Chicago, England, New York, New Zealand, and Texas.
Our day aboard the ship consisted of eating, napping, and learning to waltz! We enjoyed an early dinner before disembarking in Vienna. We went into town for a concert at what used to be the beautiful palace/home of a prominent local family…a perfect evening.
August 24, 2017
The day began with a guided City Tour of Vienna. We drove along the Ring Road, the road that surrounds the Old Town and is built where medieval city fortifications once stood. It has been designated by UNESCO as part of Vienna’s World Heritage Site. The road is lined with some of the most beautiful buildings I think I have ever seen. Among them are the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Fine Arts, Palace of Justice, Parliament, University of Vienna, Vienna Stock Exchange, just to name a few. I wish we had more time to explore here…we will just have to come back!
We took a short walking tour through a quiet part of Old Town and were given about an hour to explore on our own. Not nearly enough time to see it all. The afternoon consisted of a tour of Schonbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence, as well as a great history lesson on the life of Queen Maria-Teresa, who ruled Austria for over 40 years and gave birth to 16 children (one of them was Marie Antoinette).
Our ship was docked in port until 10:45 pm so we went into town for dinner. Our tour guide recommended Griechensbeisl (please don’t ask me to pronounce it). We each ordered the filet mignon and a nice glass of Zweigelt. Afterwards we agreed we should probably try to walk off some of that dinner so we made our way back to the ship on foot. After about 30 minutes I realized we must have made a wrong turn…thank goodness for Uber!
Avalon brought a musical duo from Slovakia on board to entertain us tonight. They were fantastic! One is the conductor and the other is the principal violinist for the symphony orchestra in Bratislava. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
August 25, 2017
Today we woke up in Durnstein. A tiny little town in the Wachau Valley where King Richard I the Lionheart was once held prisoner. One of the gentlemen in our group from England has traced his family tree all the way back to the 12th century and discovered that he is a direct descendent of King Henry II and King Richard I the Lionheart so he was quite excited to see Durnstein.
At 11:00 we set sail for Melk. We found a couple of lounge chairs on the top deck and enjoyed the scenery for the next couple of hours as Roos talked about each of the sites and villages we passed along the way. We docked in Melk at 2:00. We then went on a guided tour of the Melk Abbey. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must see. It is a working Benedictine abbey. It contains a private secondary school for 900 children. Next to the Sagrada Famila in Barcelona, the church at the Melk Abbey is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.
August 26, 2017
We woke up in a tiny town called Aschach. The only reason for stopping here was to let off the passengers going on optional excursions to Salzburg or Cesky Krumlov. The “Sound of Music” is one of my favorite movies of all time so I lightly twisted Alan’s arm to visit Salzburg and see some of the spots where the movie was filmed. The first stop was in a gorgeous town called Mondsee. There is a lake at the base of the mountains where people were paddle boarding and sailing.
It is a popular holiday spot for locals.
In Mondsee is the famous St. Michael’s church where the wedding scene in the movie was filmed. We then drove to Salzburg. Our guide gave us a short orientation tour and then turned us loose. We took the funicular up to the fortress for an incredible view of the city. Coming back down, we wandered the streets in search of lunch and our souvenir Christmas ornaments before having to return to the bus.
August 27, 2017
Today we woke up in Regensburg, Germany. It is the fourth largest city in Bavaria. Besides the fact that it is the oldest city on the Danube, the three highlights were:
Before dinner, Avalon brought two local ladies on board for a tasting of the local beers. They did a great job but it was a little hard to take them seriously given their cute local costumes and pigtails. The beer was delicious and they made it really fun.
August 28, 2017
Today we are sailing along the part of the Main-Danube canal that has 16 locks in a 106 mile stretch of the waterway. A local university professor came on board to explain to us the whole canal/lock engineering masterpiece. Because of the lock system, we were actually 1000 feet above sea level at our highest point, before we started to gradually descend. He was super interesting.
We arrived in Nuremberg in the afternoon and opted for the City Tour. It is the second largest city in Bavaria and dates back to the 11th century, is notorious as the birth place of the Nazi Party and was the location of many Nazi propaganda rallies. In 1945-1946, after WWII ended, German officials accused of war crimes were brought to trial here in the Nuremberg Trials.
After that, we stopped for a tour of Nuremberg Castle and Old Town. It is storybook pretty. They hold a huge Christmas market here every year that draws over two million visitors!
August 29, 2017
We arrived by bus at the Prague Marriott at noon. The hotel is in a fabulous location…a 5 minute walk to Republic Square where you will find a farmers market, subway stop, shops and restaurants.
At 2:00 we met up with a few others for a guided “Secrets of Prague” tour. Our tour guide was Helena and she was wonderful. She has been giving tours for forty years and has seen much in her lifetime. After a short bus ride, we walked to the Charles Bridge. This city is simply gorgeous. Both sides of the river are full of beautiful architecture and history. She really covered a lot of ground with us so we were comfortable exploring on our own later.
We had dinner at a restaurant on the river. The food was okay but the view was spectacular! The highlight of the evening was walking along the Charles Bridge at night while it was full of pedestrians, musicians and artists.
August 30, 2017
Back on the bus at 8:15 for the Prague City Tour. We saw the castle and the church. We saw the Lennon Wall (a tribute to John Lennon). We went back to Old Town to see the Astronomical Clock.
This afternoon we signed up for the optional tour of Terezin. Helena was our tour guide again today. Terezin is a former military fortress an hour or so outside of Prague. During WWII over 32,000 prisoners (5,000 of them women) passed through here. Many were tortured, executed or sent to concentration camps. A distant relative of Alan’s, Anna Skrainka, was here for 18 months 1944-1945. When the prison was liberated by the allies, Anna walked 700 miles from Terezin to Hamburg. Her granddaughter, Angie Littlefield, has researched the story and is writing a book, Walking With Oma. Helena did such an amazing job of describing the conditions that it just left us with a haunting feeling and overwhelming sadness for those who were held there.
Later in the evening, at the recommendation of our tour director, Heinrich, we had an amazing dinner at a little Italian restaurant about 5 blocks from our hotel. We wandered aimlessly around the busy streets of Old Town until our feet just couldn’t take any more.
August 31, 2017
Today was the first day we could sleep in. Heaven. We grabbed sausages and beer for lunch from a vendor at the farmer’s market before boarding the bus for our last excursion. Helena was our guide once again. She really is wonderful. We drove for about 45 minutes to Melnik to see the castle and do a wine tasting. The village is very pretty and quaint. The castle has been in the Lobkowiczs family for hundreds of years (except for a brief period when it was confiscated by the communist party). The wine was very good and it was the perfect way to end our vacation.
I thought Avalon did a wonderful job. We really liked the hotels in Budapest and Prague. The ship was wonderful. The staff on the ship and the tour guides on the ground were very good. I would encourage anyone thinking about a river cruise to go on this adventure!
Email Julie or give her a call at 314-580-4554
to begin planning your Avalon Waterways cruise and discover the best of Eastern Europe.
One of the most magnificent destinations in the world is Alaska. The ice-capped mountains, crystal-clear waters, scenic forests and those oh-so-adorable sled dogs - it's a spot that should be on everyone's "bucket list". Many of our staff members have conquered its vast terrains and they invite you to attend "On Stage Alaska" presented by Holland America Line and Brentwood Travel on Wednesday, September 27th at 7:00 PM. This once a year performance will feature our staff members, Alaskan locals, and Holland America Line representatives to show you why your next trip should be Alaska. Read our staff's testimonials below to get a sneak-peek of what you'll learn at "On Stage Alaska".
Seating at Creve Coeur Community Center is free but limited! To reserve your spot, email us or call 314-439-5700 ext. 110. To find out more about "On Stage Alaska" click here.
Our first step was finding the right company to do this with. There are only 500 trail permits admitted each day for the trail so you need a licensed guide for the trek. G Adventures was the right choice for us because we wanted a small group tour that was reputable and fit our needs. After about 50 trips to REI, I had all of the right gear to hike but I still needed the support of a great company to get me there.
I was more than impressed with how amazing the porters, cooks, and guides were along the trek. I still am not sure how the 5 ft tall porters could break down camp, pack up our tents, carry their body weight on their back, run past me on the trail, and have the next camp set up all before I arrived after carrying about 5 lbs on my back! The cooks prepared some delicious meals and even a cake for a Honeymoon couple on our trip!
Hiking the Inca Trail was truly an incredible experience for me. I know that this is not everyone's style of traveling so G Adventures also offers trips in more of a comfort level such as trips for younger travelers only, itineraries paired with National Geographic, family options and even Marine cruises.
What I enjoyed most about traveling with G Adventures was the small group experience and the special local touches. We visited the Ccaccaccollo Community and Women's Weaving Co-op where we saw the traditional ways of clothing making. We also had a beyond delicious lunch at the Parwa Community Restaurant in the Sacred Valley. These places were unexpected highlights made possible by G Adventures!
Part 2: Emily's G Adventure to Costa Rica
"Cathy Robinson put together a FABULOUS Alaskan experience for Elaine and me (Bruce).
We did the 11 day Alaskan tour, with four days on land and a seven day Inland Passage cruise on the Coral Princess. Upon arrival in Fairbanks, we were greeted by Princess staff and received our welcome packet. We were surprised by the “Meet Me Onboard” request to send a suitcase ahead to the ship. We did NOT pack a separate bag for this, so we spent a lot of time ‘repacking’ one of our suitcases. That was a minor inconvenience, as the remainder of the trip was trouble free! Our luggage was delivered to our rooms by the time we arrived at the hotels/ship.
The Discovery III riverboat cruise was the best excursion of the trip. The ship was equipped with a great sound system and video monitors, so all onboard could see and hear all narration. There were fascinating bits of information. Iditarod training camp and fishing village info was easy to hear and see. We really enjoyed that.
The Tundra Wilderness Tour was awe inspiring! The vastness of Alaska was prominently displayed and we got to see several species of wildlife – from afar. We also got to see all of Mt. Denali. We joined the 30% club of visitors that got to see the entire mountain top.
The two Princess lodges were beautiful. They were rustic looking and very accommodating. We purchased the on land food package and certainly got our money’s worth. We could order anything on the menus, with no exceptions. All the food tasted great. The bus drivers for excursions were all courteous and explained in detail what we were seeing and some history of the area. Despite the rain, the train ride to Whittier was entertaining and visually stunning.
The Coral Princess was clean and the staff was VERY friendly and again, the food was really delicious. We did purchase the ‘all beverage’ package on the ship and that worked out well. We had no questions on any drink we could order including call drinks.
There was a lot of notice of invo-virus and signs to wash hands frequently. There were Purell hand sanitizers by all restaurants, shops, elevator lobbies and stairwells. However, they were not ‘forcing’ you to sanitize before entering restaurants – especially the buffet (sanitizing was mandatory on other cruise lines we have sailed). We recommend sanitizing hands before and after dining
They brought naturalists on board to discuss what we were seeing in Glacier Bay and as we entered and cruised the Inland Waterway. They were very informative and helped all to view humpback whales, sea otters and Orca killer whales during our journey.
The shore excursion disembarkments were well coordinated. We had no delays leaving or re-entering the ship. The meeting points on shore were well marked. Bus drivers to and from the excursions were informative and very helpful with participants with disabilities, or problems getting on/off the buses.
Our three shore excursions were:
This was our first trip to Alaska and our first time on Princess Cruise Line. We will not hesitate to recommend Brentwood Travel to our friends and we will have them coordinate our next major travel event."
Start planning your Alaska adventure by emailing Cathy or contact her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 114.
Is St. Louis ready to be ‘wowed’? You bet we are! WOW air just announced St. Louis is among four Midwest cities getting air service, making our area a hub city again for international flights.
WOW air is a low-fare, long-haul airline based in Iceland. Starting May 2018, purple colored airplanes will be coming and going to Lambert Airport and bringing along a low-cost way to travel to Europe.
The affordability of flights is a key attraction. Prices vary depending on the departure date, destination and whether it includes a return trip. Travelers will enjoy the flexibility of being charged only for the extras they want to use.
The airline was founded in 2011 and serves destinations across Europe, North America, and Asia. The company’s name and signature color on its fleet are intended to make the airline stand out. They also strive to create better communication through their free mobile app and create a fun and casual environment for travelers.
Travelers can also choose to take advantage of a WOW Stopover when you book your flight and enjoy a stay in Iceland, a trending travel destination. The #wowstopper option gives you the chance to break up long-haul journeys across the Atlantic and is available on return flights between North America and Europe in either direction.
Tickets are already available for early-spring direct departures from St. Louis. Contact a Brentwood Travel consultant to learn how to get the best air fares and be prepared to be WOWED!
Since I was 7 years old the one place I've wanted to see more than anywhere in the world is Paris, France. After 20 years of waiting, my wish finally came true and my husband and I traveled to Paris with Monograms, which is part of the Globus Family of Brands. It was hands down the most incredible week of my life and it lived up to everything I'd ever dreamed it would be and more.
My husband and I consider ourselves more of independent travelers - we like to do what we want, when we want. Monograms gave us the freedom to be the travelers we are while making the trip easier than we could've imagined.
When we arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport it was madness. There were so many people everywhere and if it wasn't for the included airport transfer with Monograms we would've been completely lost. A Monograms rep was waiting for us with a "Welcome" sign and they took us straight to our hotel. During the car ride our driver was friendly and provided incredible advice about Paris and what we should do on our trip.
Once we pulled up to our centrally located hotel, Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacre Coeur, the Monograms Local Host, Julie, greeted us outside and escorted us into the lobby. Julie presented all the information we needed for our exciting week ahead and explained how to use the metro system for the easiest way to get around. Without her assistance we wouldn't have had such ease navigating the city.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
On our first full day at our leisure we decided to go to the Palace of Versailles. This is an absolute MUST when visiting Paris. This excursion actually turned into one of our favorite days of the whole trip. We purchased skip the line tickets in advance and I'm so glad we did. The wait was over 4 hours long for those who didn't! Our visit was a guided tour filled with the most incredible details you could imagine. The amount of knowledge the guides have is unreal and we learned so much during our tour.
The Palace is filled with gold, marble, elaborate fabrics, statues, paintings, crystals and everything in between. We couldn't stop taking pictures of every detail we saw - it was all so glamorous and ornate!
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
My husband and I are huge Disney fans so we naturally had to spend a day at Disneyland Paris! There are two parks - Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney Studios. We only had enough time for Magic Kingdom but if you're able to stay more than one day I highly recommend going to both.
Disneyland Paris is celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year so the whole park was decorated in blue. For those who have been to a Disney park before you'll hardly notice that many differences, they did a great job keeping everything consistent with the American parks. However, this is still in France so it was pretty fun to hear the French language worked in to some of the rides and songs!
Thursday, August 17, 2017
On this day we went to Giverny to visit the home of Claude Monet. This was one of the more important days on our trip due to the significance of Monet in my life. In first grade we did a year-long class project over France, where we studied French culture and art. I fell in love with Claude Monet and each student wrote a book about his life. After all these years I kept my book and I took it with me to his home.
The gardens and his home were absolutely stunning. As we walked around I couldn't believe how large the garden was and just how many plants and flowers were on Monet's property. We only had two hours in Giverny but we could've spent an entire day there exploring. I would go back in a heartbeat.
After the tour of the Palace we ran into "Bag O' Nails Pub" for a quick pint and fish and chips (when in Rome, right?) to energize and we then headed to Big Ben. We were very lucky to be some of the last people hear the tower ring as it's now silent for the next four years for refurbishment. After a quick visit we did some shopping for souvenirs on Oxford Street and then left for King's Cross Station. My husband and I also love Harry Potter so it was important to us to see where Harry and the gang entered the Wizarding World.
My week trip to Paris and London was the best week of my life and I wish I could've had time for more. Now that I've had a taste of Europe I can't wait to go back and see it all! I highly recommend this trip to everyone and traveling with Monograms is the way to do it.
Call one of our expert Travel Consultants to book your package with Monograms at 314-439-5700!
Missouri is well known as the Show Me State and we will receive quite a show on August 21, 2017. An eclipse extravaganza will cross through our state for a once in a lifetime experience.
A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely blocks the solar disk. During totality, it will get as dark as night. Missouri will experience as much as 3 hours of the partial eclipse and 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality.
The Sun’s diameter is 400 times that of the Moon. The Sun is also about 400 times farther away. As a result, the two bodies appear almost exactly the same size in the sky. This truly remarkable coincidence is what creates a total solar eclipse.
You may experience strange things during a total solar eclipse. Shadows will look eerie and breezes may vanish. A 10°–15° F drop in temperature is not unusual. And bright stars and planets may be also be visible!
About five seconds before totality, Baily's beads will appear. They are little bead-like blobs of light at the edge of the Moon. They are created because gaps in the mountains and valleys on the Moon's surface allow sunlight to pass through in some places but not others.
A Brief History of Total Solar Eclipses
The word eclipse comes from ekleipsis, the ancient Greek word for being abandoned. Surviving records have shown that the Babylonians were able to predict solar eclipse as early as 2500 BC. The ancient Chinese were the first to document a total solar eclipse and explained their occurance as a celestial dragon devouring the sun.
The wonder of a solar eclipse lead to myths and folklore being created throughout many cultures. The Batammaliba people in Africa see each eclipse as an opportunity to end old feuds. The myth is that an eclipse is caused by fighting between the sun and the moon. When an eclipse occurs, the Batammaliba come together as a community and try to end their own fighting as a way of encouraging the sun and moon to do the same.
The last time a total solar eclipse occurred over Missouri was in 1442. The Osage people still ruled this region and Columbus had not even been born yet. The next eclipse over our area will be in 2505 which is 488 years away, making this viewing truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Protect Your Eyes During the Eclipse
A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime:
To learn more on eye safety during a total solar eclipse, click here. And be sure to follow us on Facebook on Monday, August 21 as we post live updates during The Great American Eclipse event.
"Cynthia Friedenberg's attention to the needs of her customers is outstanding. Last year I mentioned a desire to combine some time in London and cruise the Norwegian fjords. Months after that conversation, she contacted me with news of the perfect cruise to meet my travel desires.
Oceania had introduced a new 11-day itinerary, including five days visiting the fjords, departing from Southampton and returning to Southampton. My husband and I happily booked the trip.
Transfers went smoothly, our hotel in London was in a good location and lovely. The Oceana Marina offered a superior shipboard experience.
Thanks to the planning of Ms. Friedenberg, an outstanding travel agent, our entire trip was perfect."
Brentwood Travel Vacation Experts
Serving Greater St. Louis since 1957, we specialize in cruises, all-inclusive vacations, tour packages, honeymoons, and group travel.