Category Archive: Europe

Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

  The ruins of Pompeii have become one of Italy’s most visited sites. On August 24th, 79 A.D., erupted in a violent two-day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, Italy, and the surrounding area. It is one of history’s largest recorded volcanic eruptions, and a tragedy by any measure. The city was buried under ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years and was presumed lost until its accidental rediscovery in the mid-1700s.   The subsequent excavation of the ruins of Pompeii provided a peek at what life was like during the height of the Roman Empire. Rising out of the ash and lava over a thousand years later, the ruins of Pompeii turned a horrible tragedy into a tourism opportunity. Millions of visitors a year now visit this UNESCO World Heritage site located not far from Naples, along with its […]

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5 Tuscan Towns for a Perfect Day Trip

It’s been awhile since we’ve traveled to Italy and it’s time to start making plans for a return visit. Our travel preference is to travel with friends and rent a home in Italy to use as a home base. Having a home base lets us set up a combination of days at leisure to relax and soak up the Italian way of life along with busy days of day trips seeing the countryside. There are many things that we love about Italy, especially the hill towns in Tuscany. Here are a few of our favorites, perfect as a home base, day trip, or weekend getaway. Castiglione d’Orcia Where it is: In the Siena province in Tuscany. Population around 3,000. What to do: Visit the Castle of Tentennano and the Santi Stefano and Degna to see art. Relax in the baths. […]

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UNESCO Site: Visiting Malbork Castle, Poland

The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, usually referred to as the Teutonic Order, is a Catholic religious order dating back to the 12th century. Although it was originally founded as a German military brotherhood, it’s purpose has changed over the years and since 1929 it has been strictly a religious order, although it harkens back to those early years with the conference of honorary knighthoods. Today the Catholic branch of the Order has about 1,000 members, and while originally no women were permitted, members today include a couple hundred nuns. The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, most often referred to as simply Malbork Castle, is a fortified monastery on the Nogat River, that dates back to the 13th century. When it was completed in 1406, it was the world’s largest brick […]

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Viva le Tower: The 127th Anniversary of the Eiffel Tower

March 31st is the 127th anniversary of the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower, and boy dho I wish I was there to celebrate! Located beside the River Seine in Paris, France, the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in the city.  Following its completion in 1889, it was the tallest structure in the world, and remained so until the Chrysler Building in New York City displaced it from that top spot. The Eiffel Tower was originally built as the entrance arch for the Paris World’s Fair.  That  also marked the 100-year commemoration of the French Revolution. When it was first built, many considered it to be an eyesore, part of the reason why originally the tower was to be torn down 20 years after it was erected.  Fortunately, some practical uses came of the tower (including the role it played in helping […]

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7 Places to Sip Wine in France

When I think about traveling in France, food and wine are at the top of my list of things to enjoy. From simple peasant fare to exquisite fine dining, my mouth waters thinking about the choices. It’s been awhile since I visited France for longer than making a connection at the airport, but I still have fond memories of delightful combinations of food and wine. You can enjoy this experience with minimal effort. Arm yourself with some basic wine information, hone in on a destination or two, maybe even limit your “research” to one or two types of grapes. For your consideration, I suggest seven places to sip wine while you’re in France: Toast a special occasion with champagne in Champagne. Champagne is not just a delicious sparkling wine, it’s a legal term that can only be used for wine made with […]

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Lisbon: Looking Back, Looking Forward

A little over four years ago, we were planning a trip to Portugal. The plan was to stay in the Lisbon area for a week, before continuing on with another week in Tuscany. It was our first trip to Portugal, and in my Type-A way, I researched and found a place to stay in Cascais near the beach, figured out public transportation, and was charting a list of things to see and do. We were traveling with a friend and every few days we shared something new and exciting that we learned. Tickets were purchased, accommodations booked, lists were made. We were ready. BUT – as we were about to be reminded – travel plans don’t always turn out the way we want. Or that we would hope for. Sixteen hours before we were to board our flight for Lisbon, my father-in-law […]

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Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

On August 24th, 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted in a violent two day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, Italy, and the surrounding area. It is one of history’s largest recorded volcanic eruptions, and a tragedy any measure. The city was buried under ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years, and was presumed lost until its accidental re-discovery in the mid-1700s.   The subsequent excavation of the site provided a peek at what life was like during the height of the Roman Empire. Rising out of the ash and lava over a thousand years later, Pompeii turned a horrible tragedy into a tourism opportunity. Millions of visitors a year now visit this UNESCO World Heritage site located not far from Naples, along with its sister city Herculaneum. The site is stable and safe to visit, but there have been some […]

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Is a River Cruise Right for You?

Earlier this year, I was the enthusiastic guest of Viking River Cruises onboard their longship Eistla cruising the Rhine. We started in Frankfurt and ended in Amsterdam, the trip is also offered in reverse, and, I’m told, this was a fairly typical first river cruise itinerary. River cruising is generating a lot of buzz lately, with gorgeous print ads, television sponsorships (Viking sponsors Downton Abbey on PBS), and blogger campaigns. But when you strip away all that glitzy advertising, the decision to take a river cruise is a big one – one that needs to be made out of the spotlight and made with an eye toward your personal vacation preferences. Here’s my take on Viking’s Legends of the Rhine cruise. I hope it will help you decide if a river cruise is right for you. River cruising attracts an “older” […]

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Changing of the Guard at Presidential Mansion in Athens

The Presidential Mansion is located across the street from Athens’ National Gardens, and I happened upon it at the changing of the guard. Called the Evzoni, the guard is an elite ceremonial unit drawn from the Greek Army, and members are usually identified early in the military career while in basic training. The Evzoni are responsible for guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Presidential Mansion, and the gates of the guard’s camp. The Evzoni are easily recognized by and are a bit famous for, their traditional uniform which dates back to the Ottoman occupation of . the everyday uniform is a Farion (a scarlet fex with a black tassel), Doulamas (a navy blue tunic), and Periskelides (white woolen stockings, two pairs are worn) with Anapastos (a type of garter to hold the stockings in place). The shoes they wore we […]

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