"Christine was amazing to work with! She made sure I selected the correct group trip for the first half of my Euro trip (Contiki®), and ensured all my flights and housing accommodations went exactly as planned. I was able to be off the cuff as my travel itinerary changed, yet she helped me work out all destination transitions seamlessly. Everything was more than you could hope for! I went through 12 countries in 8 weeks traveling alone and was completely comfortable the whole time. What an amazing experience to say the least! I would 100% go back to Christine and Brentwood Travel for my next adventure!" - Jack D.
Are you interested in a solo trip to Europe?
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One of the biggest things to look forward to the most when traveling to Italy is easily the food and drinks! But, there are a number of rules to keep in mind when dining and drinking in Italy. Chris Atwood with See Italy has come up with "11 Rules For Eating In Italy", but our agents have thrown in an extra couple rules ourselves 😉 *Look for See Italy’s original article that is linked at the bottom of this post*
#1. Pasta portions are individual sized.
Here in the United States, we have Americanized Italian plates to a crazy amount. Most Italian restaurants that we know, offer enormous portion sizes of their pastas that are easily big enough to share. This is NOT the case in Italy. The pasta in Italy, considered there as “Primo” is individually sized and this is not because the cook is being stingy. Italians like to stagger their meals. They eat their appetizers first, then their pasta and THEN their main entrée. By keeping their pasta dish to a smaller size, Italians hold on to their appetites long enough to full enjoy all courses without feeling too stuffed. Leaving room for plenty Tiramisu for dessert!
#2. The pizza toppings are totally different in Italy.
When ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza pie covered in peppers. Why? Because pepperoni in Italy means ‘bell peppers’. Pizza originated in Italy, but again, we have Americanized the Italian Pizza to a crazy amount. For example, BBQ chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza & yes, even the pepperoni pizza originated here in the United States. NOT Italy. The traditional pizzas found in Italy will be the Margherita (mozzarella, tomato & basil), the Marinara (which is just crust & tomato sauce), the Quattro Formaggi (white pizza with four types of cheese), and the Capricciosa (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, and black olives). So keep this in mind when going to order your favorite pizza pie in Italy!
#3. You do not need to order the whole menu.
As noted above, Italians stagger the way they eat. Enjoying the antipasta before moving on to first course (pasta/risotto/soup). The second course is either a meat or fish dish. This is why you will NEVER see a meat or fish entrée served on the same plate as your pasta. Italians consider these as two separate dishes that should be enjoyed separately, with the pasta being served before the main dish. Insider tip: Split your antipasta and then order either a pasta or an entrée. If you are STILL hungry, you can always go back for more 😉
#4. ONLY drink wine or water at a restaurant.
We come from a land with AT LEAST five drinks choices being offered on almost any menu here in the States. At many sit-down restaurants, Italians will only sip on two drinks; wine and water. The wine in Italy will be served in chilled glass bottles and will usually cost about 2 euros per bottle. The waiter will usually ask you if you want “acqua naturale” which is flat mineral water or “acqua frizzante” which is fizzy mineral water also known as sparkling water. Do not ask for tap water, most restaurants will refuse to serve that to you. House wines can be ordered by the liter and are usually the same price as the water! Most will offer wine by the bottle also.
#5. Oil & vinegar are the only salad dressings offered.
“Italian dressing” in Italy does not exist. That salad dressing was (yes, you guessed it) Americanized as well! When ordering a salad in Italy, the waiter will bring extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the table or “olio e aceto”. This is the only way Italians eat insalata. Another fun fact! Italians will absolutely not dip their bread into olive oil and balsamic.
#6. No bread before pasta!
With foods like pizza, pasta and focaccia most think that Italians eat nothing BUT carbs. This is actually not the case. When ordering pasta, Italians would never consider eating their bread before their bucatini. The bread that is served at restaurants is used to scoop up the leftover pasta sauce onto your plate and ONLY when you are finished consuming the pasta.
#7. There are no such things as “doggy bags” to bring leftovers with you.
Italians love fresh, homemade meals. They do not appreciate leftovers the way we do here in the states. You must be careful not to over order while dining in Italy. The pasta that is left on your plate will be taken away and not returned back to you. So, enjoy the food that is in front of you while you can but do not expect to take it home with you.
#8. Some dishes will not exist in all of Italy.
Rome is world famous for Carbonara. Florence is known for its Fagioli and Venetians go crazy for their risotto. Wherever you travel in Italy, each region will provide you their own flavors. So the food you enjoy in Rome will not necessarily resemble what you enjoy in Sorrento. Insider tip: before heading to Italy, do some research as to the local specialties in each of the places that you will be staying.
#9. Cheese does not always go on your dish.
It is not customary to ask for grated cheese on top of your dish. Sprinkling grated cheese on pasta dishes and Italian entrees is yet again a very American thing to do. Unless your waiter offers you a spoonful of grated cheese, do not ask for it. It is not meant to be on that dish or it will be offered after it is served.
#10. Enjoy a caffe or digestive after dinner.
Only foreigners will order a cappuccino with or after dinner in Italy. Italians would much rather order a caffe or macchiato after savoring a full, slow meal. Cappuccino’s are filled with milk and cream and is considered much too heavy after consuming a bunch of carbs. It is also very common to order a caffe corretto after dining, which is a shot of espresso spiked with liqueur. Insider tip: NEVER pass up on dessert while in Italy.
#11. Ask for your bill, when YOU want it.
Here in the States, we are so accustomed to the waiter bringing us our check when we are finished dining. This is not the case in Italy. The waiters in Italy want you to sit and enjoy your meal and do not want to hurry you out the door. Instead, they will wait for you to ask for the bill (which you can simply do so by flagging them down and requesting the “il conto” when you are ready to pay because they do not want to rush you out the door.
#12. Peel your fruits and vegetables.
Italians do not consume fruits and vegetables with the skin on them. They will always peel the skin off first. Many think that this is because Italians think the pesticides are unhealthy but most will say that this is because of tradition. If you start to bite into a fruit that still has the skin on it, you will most likely have the fruit ripped from your hand and the skin cut off for you by a local. Don’t get embarrassed this way 😉
#13. Arrive late to any dinner party or dining event.
It is considered rude in Italy to arrive early or on time to a dinner event. Italians will always try and arrive just a tad after the planned time as to not rush the host or chef.
Below you can find pictures shared by Travel Consultant Julie Skrainka, who travelled to Sorrento back in May. She & her husband, Alan spent an evening at their Agriturismo making pizzas with their host Natalia, her mother-in-law and her husband Luigi. Once Julie & her husband were finished creating their pizza masterpieces, Luigi then baked them in their own beautiful wood-fired oven.
Read more of See Italy’s article, written by Chris Atwood here
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My husband Alan and I are fortunate to have been to Italy a couple of times and I could go back over and over again. We had seen Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Lake Como, Milan, Siena and San Gimignano. I asked Stephanie Turner, President of Brentwood Travel, if she could go back to Italy and had to pick one town to stay in for a week, where would she choose to go? Without missing a beat, she replied “Sorrento”! Little did I know that within the next couple of days I would be booking our trip to this dazzling place.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
We arrived in Naples, Italy around noon after layovers in Minneapolis and Paris. Our luggage arrived with us which always makes me happy. I arranged to have a driver waiting in the arrivals hall. To me there are few things more stressful than showing up in a foreign country after a long overnight journey and not knowing which taxi to trust. He called the hotel to let them know we were on our way and after a fairly short ride we arrived at Hotel Correra 241.
The hotel is located is in the heart of the city so it doesn’t take us long to find a big city square, a couple of churches, and an outdoor café where we sit to enjoy our lunch. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the National Archeological Museum. The main focus here is some of the best pieces from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The two cities were buried in ash or debris when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Many of the pieces here were discovered when Pompeii was excavated in the late 1700’s.
We met up with our tour guide, Elisa, and the rest of the group for a meeting on the hotel patio. We took a short walk around the city, past the Archaeological Museum, before stopping at a nice little place for dinner.
Monday, May 14
Today we headed for Pompeii. After a quick lunch we met up with our official guide for Pompeii. Lino. He is very knowledgeable and told some great stories that helped bring the city to life for us. Pompeii is located about 6 km from Mt Vesuvius. They said that the wind carried ash to Pompeii for days. Not everyone escaped. They estimate the population at the time to have been 6,000-20,000 people. About 2,000 people died. When they were excavating, they discovered food still on tables left behind as people tried to run.
We then made our way to Sorrento which is only about one hour away. We arrived at the Agriturismo di Vigliano – our home for the next 5 days. We were met by the son of our host family, Luigi and his sister Valentina. This place is beautiful! Lemon trees in every direction. The original house was built in the 16th century and has been passed down from generation to generation and remains within the family. All of the rooms are different. There are a few little cottages (Alan and I stayed in one of them) and there are rooms in the house. We took a few minutes to get settled and then met in the dining room for dinner. The family will make our breakfasts and dinners each day.
Our tour guide, Elisa is great. She has meals with us, has fun stories to tell about the places we are seeing, and keeps us organized. She brought a deck of cards with questions for everyone to answer to get everyone talking after dinner (If you could be a Disney character, which one would you be? If you could only choose one, health or love, which one would you choose?) Of course the night isn’t over until we have one last glass of wine and a limoncello (made by the family).
Tuesday, May 15
After breakfast, we were taken on a tour of the farm. They have one cow (which Luigi milks twice each day), 3 pigs, chickens (for the eggs), rabbits, several cats and a dog named Lucky. Valentina showed us how to make cheese from the cow’s milk (of course she makes it look so easy). Luigi showed us how to make limoncello. They made a “light” lunch consisting of homemade cheeses, salami, pasta with light tomato sauce. Valentina serenaded us on the violin while we ate. Perfecto!
The group went into Sorrento for a tour of the town. It has been raining off and on so we grabbed our umbrellas. Elisa took us to David’s Gelateria for a gelato making class. He makes all kinds of crazy flavors (chefs from local restaurants will ask him to make flavors like truffle or salmon or basil to go along with a dish they are serving). I had the ricotta and it was amazing! Again, we were told we can make this at home but somehow I don’t think it will taste the same. We stopped at one of Elisa’s favorite food shops for a little lesson on balsamic vinegar and I bought a bottle of an amazing 12 year old balsamic vinegar…let the shopping begin :)
Back at the farm, Luigi fired up the outdoor pizza oven and they tried to teach us how to work the dough and we made our own pizzas for dinner. Natasha (Luigi’s wife) and Ida (his mom) helped us put them together, Luigi did the cooking. Delish!
Wednesday, May 16
Sunny today. Feels warmer already. Taking a boat ride to Amalfi then visiting Positano. Thankfully the rain has stopped. Luigi and his mom drove us to the marina in Massa Lubrense where we found our boat and captains for the day. Liberto is our driver and Giovanni seems to be the first mate. It was a little chilly and the water was a little choppy but it was still a beautiful ride. They stopped along the way to show us different caves and grottos on the islands and along the coast. The Mediterranean Sea is the most beautiful shade of blue you can imagine.
Our first stop was Amalfi. I have heard many people tell me how beautiful it is and the view is breathtaking! Our second stop was Positano. The climb is steep but was a fun stroll. There are several restaurants along the sea where you can relax with a drink or a bite to eat.
The best part of the day was being on the boat. On the ride back, Giovanni served us some bruschetta and a bread (more like a quiche) that had ham and cheese both he made himself along with some Prosecco and limoncello. He was a lot of fun!
Another wonderful dinner by the family and wine and limoncello and more questions made for a fun evening :)
Thursday, May 17
Today was a free day. Elisa helped everyone come up with a plan and sent us on our way. Alan and I took the bus into Sorrento (thank you to the nice people at the bus stop for telling us we were on the wrong side of the street to catch the bus to Sorrento!). Then we bought tickets for the train to Erculano which was about an hour by train. We were happy to find a private tour guide, Francesca, inside Erculano. She spent about an hour and fifteen minutes walking us around and describing the families who lived here and the homes that have been uncovered. Erculano was a resort town for the wealthy, buried under 16 meters of pyroclastic rock from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Only about 1/5 of the town has been excavated so far.
Friday, May 18
The weather has been perfect so we spent today out on Giovanni’s boat again. On our way to Capri we stopped at several grottos for a close up view. He prepared a picnic lunch of Caprese Sandwiches for everyone. We passed through Lovers Arch and he played Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and made all of the married couples kiss as we rode through. We were all cracking up. A little awkward for the singles in the group…LOL.
Elisa arranged for a van to take all of us up to Anacapri. We walked around for about an hour. A few brave souls in the group took the chair lift to the very top just as a cloud moved in. It was not like the chair lifts we have in the U.S. We decided to keep our feet on the ground.
Afterwards we drove down about halfway and stopped in the town of Capri. This was a lot of fun. Lots of high end shopping and beautiful people watching. The Rolex Cup sailing competition is in town and the sailboats are beautiful!
After a full day, Giovanni (and Elisa) drove us back to Massa Lubrense at a nice slow pace. The water was calm and beautiful. We didn’t’ want it to end so I asked if he would take us on down to Sorrento so we could see it from the water. He was happy to oblige and I’m so glad I asked…it was gorgeous! We ended the afternoon with some more of his homemade appetizers and limoncello. Our last dinner at the farm was lovely. The group really enjoyed one another and I think there were a few tears shed at the thought of saying goodbye
Contact Julie at 314-580-4554 or send her an email to begin planning an immersive travel experience.
Then check out Julie's blog for her best tips on keeping a travel journal for your next adventure!
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.
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!
Travel Consultants Dianna Paridon and Mary Caraffa traveled together on a voyage with the Windstar Star Pride to the charming villages of Scotland and Ireland. They enjoyed unique excursions to castles and took in picturesque landscapes onboard the casual and elegant small ship world of Windstar Cruises.
Start planning your trip to Scotland and Ireland.
Email Dianna or contact her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 108
or email Mary or call her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 121.
Are you looking for a new river cruise experience in Europe? Look no further! Dianna, one of our in-house consultants, just returned from an incredible Viking River Cruise down the Rhone River in France. She and her husband, Bill, cruised on Viking Delling that started in Lyon, France and ended in Arles, France.
Dianna said, "Viking did an amazing job. Everything was well organized. Each night they told you what to expect and they gave you a map of where you were going that day." In addition, she mentioned "someone was always around to answer questions and they all got to know our names."
On board breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the restaurant or you can enjoy a more casual atmosphere of the Aquavit Terrace, where Dianna especially enjoyed dining. Wine and beer is included with lunch and dinner, and the wines are sourced from various wine regions of France.
Dianna also enjoyed her accommodations in the Veranda A stateroom which had a walk-out balcony. She highly recommends this room, however if you're looking for something a little larger, she also suggests the suites that have both a walk-out balcony and a French balcony.
While sailing the Rhone and Saone Rivers, Dianna and Bill loved the quaint villages they visited. They were impressed by the architecture of the many walled cities, including: Lyon, Vienne, Tournon, Viviers, Avignon and Arles. This was Dianna’s first time cruising with Viking and she said “I would definitely do this itinerary again but in reverse."
In addition to the river cruise, Dianna and her husband spent two pre-cruise nights in Paris at Hotel Esprit Saint Germain, located on the left bank, and two post-cruise nights at the Rubens at the Palace Hotel in London, England.
Monday, March 27 - Tuesday, March 28: Paris, France
Wednesday, March 29 - Friday, March 3: Lyon, France
Saturday, April 1: Vienne, France
Sunday, April 2: Tournon and Viviers, France
Monday, April 3: Avignon, France
Tuesday, April 4: Arles, France
Wednesday, April 5 - Friday, April 7: London, England
To book a Viking River Cruise through France,
please contact Dianna Paridon at 314-439-5700 ext. 108, or send Dianna an Email
Brentwood Travel Vacation Experts
In the 62 years since Brentwood Travel was founded in 1957, we've grown into the largest, full-service travel agency in the Greater St. Louis area. No matter what your travel needs may be, our consultants will be able to assist you.