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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

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Can you guess the most popular European destinations to visit by rail?

Rail travel is the most sophisticated route to international adventure. Imagine sipping a cappuccino as you traverse the Tuscan countryside or enjoying a spot of afternoon tea while you await your arrival in Paris. It’s truly a relaxing, easy, and fast way to travel.

In fact, I believe rail travel is perhaps the best way to explore Europe. It quickly transports visitors between top destinations, without the hassle of road traffic or airport security. Plus, when taking a train from place to place, you depart from one city center and arrive in the next, completely eliminating the hassle and expense of those long transfers to the airport.

More than 713 million passengers traveled across the EU by rail between April and September of 2014, showing resurgence in popularity among locals and internationals alike. But can you guess what the top destinations to visit by rail were for the summer of 2014?

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Don’t be scared! Here are the top 5 international cities to visit on Halloween

Halloween is an international holiday, but not every country celebrates it in the same way. Many nations put their own touches on some of our favorite traditions, and create unique and exciting All Hallows’ Eve experiences. If you love spooks and spirits (both the undead sort and the stiff drink kind), consider traveling abroad to cities that embrace this haunted holiday. Here’s my list of the top five international cities to visit on Halloween.

5. Transylvania, Romania: Travel to Eastern Europe to visit the home of one of the most famous Halloween figures of all time: Dracula. Travelers can take a tour of Bran Castle — sometimes called Dracula’s Castle — to see the fictional home of the undead Count. The castle is situated in the heart of Transylvania, and serves as the inspiration for the setting of Bram Stoker’s famous night walker novel. After a spooky evening tour of the massive fortress, visit the small village of Bram to cap off your traditional Transylvanian experience — just be sure to carry some garlic with you.

4. London, England: London is an elegant city with a macabre history. Visit London’s infamous prison, the Tower of London, which housed political figures like Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey. Keep an eye out for misty forms and floating orbs as you learn about the tower’s bloody past. For a more traditional Halloween scare, visit the London Dungeon — an underground haunted house — and meet some of England’s renowned villains: Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, and Henry VIII. London at Halloween’s sure to frighten even the bravest of travelers.

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Why save your vacation days for the summer? Travel during the off-season!

Forget springtime in Paris and summer in Santorini. Off-season is the new hot time to visit your favorite European destinations. More and more travelers are ditching their summer vacations and opting to visit their favorite cities throughout the winter months.

From November to March, Europe takes on an entirely new persona. Gone are the large crowds, humid days, and high prices — leaving only the true cultures, histories, and sights of each destination for you to enjoy. If you’re interested in experiencing some hidden, off-season gems of Europe, here are just some of my reasons why the off-season is the perfect time to travel.

Sightsee at a fraction of the price. It’s no secret that off-season travel often means lower prices. Not only will travelers save on airfares, tours, and accommodations, but they’ll often find that restaurants, shops, and bars in high-tourist areas are also less expensive. This can help significantly pare down a tight travel budget. Also keep a lookout for bundled tours that take place during the off-season. Tour operators often make the most out of seasonal pricing and share the savings with travelers. By saving on the essentials, travelers can splurge on extra special events, like enjoying a Champagne dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower or taking a dip in Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, making their trips even more memorable.

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The world’s simplest guide to experiencing Barcelona

The following is a guest post from Kate Katubi, Reservations at Friendly Planet Travel.

If Madrid is Spain’s historic and cultural matriarch, then Barcelona is its eccentric second cousin. While the two cities share the same flag, they couldn’t be more different. Barcelona shrugs off traditional Spanish customs in favor of a more free-spirited and whimsical culture. The Catalonian capital offers a rich history of modern architecture, world-class cuisine, and sun-drenched beaches, making it the ultimate European getaway.

While I returned from my trip to Barcelona a few years ago, I still catch myself daydreaming about fruity sangria, joyous street music, and mosaic dragons. If you’re considering a trip to breathtaking Barcelona, let me share my simple tips on how to best experience this phenomenal, energetic city.

Walk, don’t run. Barcelona is a pedestrian’s paradise. The city encompasses a mere 40 square miles, with the majority of sites in easy walking distance. For instance, walk to the Plaça de Sant Jaume, the center of the old city of Barcelona. Then visit Barcelona Cathedral, the city’s 15th century gothic cathedral dedicated to a martyred virgin. Next, stop at the awe-inspiring Picasso Museum. Near the old port, Port Vell, you can marvel at the sacred spirals of the basilica Santa Maria del Mar. Finally, visit Ciutadella Park, which, for decades, was one of the only green spaces in Barcelona.

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Explore Tuscany and Barcelona through two new independent travel packages

Have you ever dreamt of visiting the rolling countryside of Tuscany or sipping sangria at a café in Barcelona? Well now you can for as little as $1,099! The new Tuscany Fly & Drive and Breathtaking Barcelona independent travel packages allow travelers to customize their trips based on their interests and experience the wonders of Italy and Spain at their own pace.

The best part? Our line of independent packages removes all of the guesswork from booking an international vacation.

It’s easy to find great travel deals on the Internet, but what’s difficult is ensuring the quality of the accommodations. Our staff has meticulously researched hotels and hand-selected properties that are well rated and located near tourist sites, as well as shopping, restaurants, and other attractions. We’ve also negotiated airfares and transportation to ensure affordable prices while promising quality accommodations and 24-hour customer support throughout the trip.

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The perfect Mother’s Day gift: International travel

It’s almost Mother’s Day, and as a mother and grandmother, I wanted to take a minute to share some motherly advice. While all moms appreciate the traditional Mother’s Day flowers, cards and the occasional breakfast in bed, the ultimate present has always been spending time with our children and yes, our grandchildren. I’ve watched my kids grow from wobbling toddlers to successful adults, and looking back over the years, the moments that bring the biggest smiles to my face are those spent enjoying time together.

With that in mind, I suggest rethinking the traditional Mother’s Day gifts this year, and consider giving Mom a present that will create lifelong memories for your family — a mother-and-child trip to an exotic destination that both of you are dying to visit and enjoy together.

In my more than 30 years in the industry, I’ve heard countless stories about how travel has built bonds and strengthened relationships. In fact, a lot of those stories are mine, having traveled internationally with both my own kids and grandkids. Not only do families learn about new cultures, they learn about each other and gain a new level of appreciation for one another. In case you haven’t discovered any mutual travel “must visits” of your own, here’s my Mother’s Day gifting guide to help you choose the perfect destination for you and your mom.

The first-time-traveler mom: Italy

Italy is a perfect destination for first-time international travelers. Your mom will fall in love with the welcoming Italian people and feel completely at home in the relaxed culture. Stroll through the winding cobblestone streets of Venice, a city that floats on water, and watch gondoliers serenade patrons as they glide along the city’s 177 canals. Travel to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and shop for gold, jewels, and art on the Ponte Vecchio, a walking bridge lined with high-end stores. Then gaze upon Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. End the trip sipping bold red wines at a café in Rome and wandering through the ruins of the famed Coliseum. Whether you and your Mom love cooking, art, music or just plain strolling, you’ll find boundless opportunities to make memories that will last a lifetime.

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How to be smart with your money in Europe

The economy might be tough, but those travelers who do their research will still find plenty of affordable ways to take that well-deserved vacation. In fact, Europe, where the euro has lost ground to the dollar recently, has become a favored destination for bargain-hungry travelers.

The new, more affordable Europe caught the attention of Quentin Fottrell of SmartMoney, and he included a few of my tips in his article “Euro Woes a Boon for Travelers?” Hop over to read some ideas I shared on the smartest ways to travel and shop in Europe.

Thanks for featuring my advice, Quentin!

Time is almost up to win an autographed Pauline Frommer travel guidebook

There are only few days left to win a signed copy of “Pauline Frommer’s Italy: Spend Less, See More.” The contest ends on Friday, June 24 at 11:59 EST.

If you’re planning on visiting Italy or going back to the country again, Pauline’s guidebook is the one you want in your hand as you travel the narrow city streets or open countryside.

Here’s what you have to do to enter to win. Tell me about at least one place or site you want to see in Italy in a comment on the original post.

Head back to the post now to leave your comment, and find out what Pauline will help you discover in Italy.

First-time Friendly Planet traveler reviews our Best of Turkey tour

It’s been almost a year since we introduced Friendly Planet Travel’s Best of Turkey tour. And every Friendly Planeteer I’ve spoken to who has taken this tour tells me how much they loved exploring the country known as the crossroads of Asia and Europe.

I wanted to share with you what Ann Ott from Cedar City, Utah had to say about her trip to Turkey. She sent me an e-mail that I’ve pasted below verbatim.

“Just returned from my first trip with Friendly Planet and was so impressed that I had to write this note. You have a lot of choices in travel and I have found my tour company at last. Everything about my trip was amazing- our guide, Ibrahim, was not only extremely knowledgeable, but also patient and very funny.

Hotels, transportation, meals, added excursions were all superb. Everything went off without a hitch- I felt safe and cared for every minute and could spend ALL of my time enjoying the trip instead of worrying about the travel details. Turkey, its people, scenery, food, monuments and parks are just wonderful. I can’t wait for my next trip. So little time, so much to see.” — Ann Ott, Cedar City, Utah

Ann, it brightens my day to find out how pleased you were with your first Friendly Planet Travel tour! Let us know which tour you pick as your second trip. And thanks again for your note!

Turkey bound: Friendly Planet Travel introduces its first tour to Turkey

At the beginning of every year, I give myself a Friendly Planet Travel to-do list. One of the items on my list this year was to add new destinations to our tour offerings. I can put a check mark next to that one today! For the first time Friendly Planet Travel is going to Turkey, with our new 14-day Best of Turkey tour.

Whirling dervishes

I’m excited to offer travelers a chance to visit Turkey, a country steeped in history and touched by many civilizations. It’s where the east and west truly blend together.

But you’ll find much more than just history in Turkey. The sun-splashed Mediterranean beaches, modern cities, covered bazaars, and whirling dervishes will leave even the most experienced traveler in awe, and with a new appreciation of world history.

For 14 days, you’re transported around the country beginning in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. You start at the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, for its tiles adorning the walls of the interior. Later, roam the Grand Bazaar built in 1461. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with 1,200 stores.

From there you’ll stroll the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey’s capital. The museum holds Anatolian artifacts from excavations including Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.

Cappadocia rock formations

In the land of the fairy chimneys, get to know Cappadocia. It’s famous for its natural rock formations and underground cities. Afterwards, you’ll go south to the coastal cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea to Antalya. Upon arrival you can take a tour to Aspendos. It is renowned throughout the world for its magnificent ancient Roman theater, famous for its perfect acoustics.

Depart the coast for Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish. The city contains hot springs and terraces of carbonate minerals left by flowing water. After a night in the town, you’ll leave for Kusadasi, a port town on the Aegean coast.

Here you’ll take a short drive to Ephesus to see the Temple of Artemis. It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the second most well-preserved ancient site in the world. It’s also home to the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean.

In the last portion of your trip, you’ll make your way back to Istanbul stopping in Pergamon, a powerful kingdom during the Hellenistic period in the first century. Then Asklepion, a famed ancient medical center built in honor of Asklepios, the god of healing. Before you cross the Dardanelles for Istanbul, you can’t miss the ancient city of Troy, the focus of the Trojan Wars as described in the epic poem by Homer.

The best part is that you get all of this and more in the $1,599 price tag. Included in the price are roundtrip, nonstop flights from New York (JFK) via Turkish Airlines, including fuel surcharges; arrival and departure transfers with meeting, assistance, and porterage; intra-Turkey transportation; accommodations in superior hotels; 22 meals; comprehensive touring program including entrance fees; and a professional, English-speaking tour guide.

Right now we only have five departure dates available. So if you want to visit Turkey, book the 14-day Best of Turkey tour for $1,599 before Sept. 22, or as long as space lasts. If you have any questions, visit our website for the full itinerary. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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