Monday, September 27, 2021
The Cruise Ports of Portugal
Lisbon is a capital city of historic boulevards, castles, monuments, and museums, as well as charming neighborhoods and parks. This is one of Europe’s oldest cities, but most of its medieval buildings were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. Still, the Lisbon Cathedral survived, along with the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, rare examples of Portugal’s Manueline architecture. And watch for distinctive black-and-white mosaic-style “Portuguese pavements” in the city’s plazas. If you’re interested in food, get to know some Lisbon favorites: caldo verde soup, bacalhau à brás (cod with potatoes and eggs), grilled sardines, Azeitão cheese, or bifana (a marinated pork sandwich). For something sweet, try pastéis de nata (egg custard tartlets), dusted with cinnamon. Or, head out of the city on an excursion to gorgeous Sintra-Cascais Nature Park.
Porto is perched at the mouth of the Douro River and its port wine region. If you’re comfortable with heights, get a birds-eye view of the city by strolling the pedestrian deck atop the Dom Luís I Bridge. Visit a wine cellar in the Ribiera District to taste different varieties of port, or explore how salt is mined near the colorful town of Aveiro. You can also take an excursion to Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Geres, for panoramic views of mountains, lakes, stone-walled fields and Roman-built roads.
About 600 miles southwest of Lisbon, mountainous Madeira rises from the Atlantic. There’s a lot to see in the city of Funchal, where the parks are full of gorgeous palms and flowers. Tour the island’s rugged peaks in a 4x4, explore caves and waterfalls on the north side, visit fishing villages and sea pools along the western shore, or take a catamaran off the southern coast to look for whales. Snow is very rare here, but you can still take a toboggan ride down a steep street (using a woven basket sled, with two drivers to safely guide you). Like Porto, Madeira has a long and delicious winemaking history, too.
To reserve your spot on a cruise that visits one or more of Portugal’s beautiful ports, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.
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Monday, September 20, 2021
Get Ready for a Great Solo Cruise
At least a dozen cruise lines now offer cabins for one on at least some of their ships. The Norwegian Epic, with more than 100 “studio” cabins, is a great example. Studio cabin occupants also have access to the Studio Lounge, which is equipped with cozy sofas, big televisions, and beverages. It’s the perfect place to meet other solo travelers who may become companions for dinner or shore excursions.
If you choose a ship that doesn’t have solo cabins, you can share a cabin with a roommate; many cruise lines offer roommate matching services. Another option is to reserve a cabin meant for two just for you, which usually requires an additional payment known as the “single supplement.” Some lines reduce this supplement for certain ships and itineraries; your professional travel advisor can help you find them.
Larger cruise ships offer lots of activities and spaces where a single traveler can mingle with other passengers, but some cruise experts recommend smaller ships for those sailing on their own. With fewer passengers, you’re more likely to see the same people each day onboard and onshore, making it easier to start conversations and make new friends.
When sailing on your own, consider taking a themed cruise, where you’re sure to meet people with a shared interest. There are lots of themed cruises to choose from, centered on music, sports, art, movies and TV shows, history, food and wine, crafts, pets, and many more fun topics. Again, your professional travel advisor is a wonderful source of information and can help you find a themed cruise you’ll enjoy.
Whatever type of cruise and size of ship you decide on, getting to know your fellow passengers can start before you get on board. Look around social media to see if your cruise has a “roll call” – a private chat group just for the passengers on your cruise. It’s a fun way to meet virtually and share pre-cruise tips, knowledge about the ship and itinerary, ideas for onshore adventures, and more.
And once you’re on board, be sure to get involved. Check the cruise line’s app for a daily schedule of activities, which may include “meet and greet” events just for solo passengers.
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Monday, September 13, 2021
Must-Try Foods in Paris
Paris is known for many things, like the Eiffel Tower, romance, and cafes. But it’s also known for its food. Here are a few bites you shouldn’t pass up on your trip to Paris.
Macarons (also called French macaroons, not to be confused with coconut macaroons) are a convection created with meringue cookies that sandwich a flavored filling. These cookie sandwiches showed up in Paris in the 1830s from Parisian confectioners and were made popular by Laduree, a famous French bakery. It wasn’t long until the macaron became famous world-wide. It even has its very own day to celebrate! But even though these tasty treats are accessible just about everywhere these days, there’s something about trying them in the country they originated.
These are a staple in Paris. They are convenient, easy to eat on the go, and can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, including on their own or as part of a sandwich. The croissant became popular in France because of Marie Antoinette. The story is that she wanted the baker to replicate her favorite bakery treat from her hometown in Austria. Over time, this treat became lighter and fluffier into what we know the croissant as now.
Some say that you know if a croissant is good if you don’t need to any anything to it. However, French people like to indulge at their weekend brunch and add jam or chocolate to their croissants.
Another staple in Paris is the baguette. In the 1920s, laws were in place that prohibited bakers from starting to bake until after 4:00 in the morning. These laws prevented them from having fresh bread in the mornings. The bakers had to be creative to find ways to have bread freshly baked for the mornings and wound up changing the bread’s shape into the baguette we know today. This allowed the bread to bake faster and made it possible for the dough to receive the maximum amount of exposed heat, which gives it that thick crust.
The baguette has been an iconic symbol of France ever since. Like the croissant, it’s a great grab-and-go snack and versatile in the ways you can enjoy it. One way people will enjoy a baguette is to cut it in half with butter and jam. It also pairs wonderfully with chocolat chaud, which is similar to a hot chocolate.
This is a unique one, but the butter in Paris is a must-try, specifically the Le Beurre Bordier. Here is how this butter is different from the rest:
They only use milk from local farmers who demonstrate the best farming practices. They also take their time when making the butter. Bordier waits 72 hours to use the milk once they get it from the cows, where milk used to make a typical brick of butter is only left to sit 6 hours. This extra time allows the cream to develop its flavor. They even knead the butter at a much slower speed.
It’s also unique because the butter is slightly different based on what season it is. The cows’ diet vastly alters how the butter comes out. When the cows graze on fresh grass in the summer, the butter is much more yellow, smoother, and tastes more savory. In the winter, the butter tends to be lighter in color due to the grass. It’s also more brittle and tastes sweeter.
They also only make the butter on-demand, so you know you’ll be getting the freshest butter!
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup is a comforting soup that has become widely popular. There are no definitive stories on the origin of the French Onion Soup, but many that in the 1800s, low-income workers would use the leftover onions that they were selling to make soup to keep them warm. The soup started as just the broth, which uses caramelized onions and beef broth.
In the 1900s, people started seeing this dish in restaurants. The recipe had expanded with the addition of baked bread with a layer of cheese crumbled on top. They then bake the soup until the cheese layer gets crispy and golden brown.
When the soup started being served in restaurants, it became more acceptable amongst all the people to enjoy, not just the working and low-income families, and it's now a staple in French cuisine!
These were only a few must-try dishes to try in Paris, but it's safe to say that there are many more to discover!
Monday, September 6, 2021
Why Children Should Travel
Traveling with children can seem daunting, especially if you're traveling internationally. With long flights and long travel days, differences in cultures, and many other obstacles that can occur, it makes sense why some parents might be reluctant to bring their children on the journey with them. However, traveling with your children, particularly internationally, can provide a vast number of benefits to your children's lives. Here are just a few reasons that you should bring your offspring along on your travels.
Most children learn about other countries' history and cultures in their classrooms at school, but when you travel with your children, they get to experience these places firsthand. Your kids will get submerged into different cultures and learn about the people, traditions, food, agriculture, and much more. This can help children better understand and learn while at school since they can relate it to their personal experiences.
When you travel, no matter how prepared, there is always an opportunity for a roadblock to arise, such as lost luggage or a late flight. Many things are out of our control that interfere with our plan, which is a part of traveling, and it is an excellent way for children to learn to problem-solve and make the best of these situations when they happen.
Children may also learn that there could be different amenities than what they are used to at home. And depending on where you are traveling to, items or tools may not be as accessible as they usually would be, which is another great way children learn to adapt and go with the flow.
As you are traveling, your children may meet other kids from those countries and might learn that those kids' way of living looks different from their own. They might recognize the differences in socioeconomic backgrounds and realize that not all children in the world have as much as they have, leading them to compassion towards others who do not have as much and appreciating what they do have.
I bet many people can recall most, if not all, the trips they have taken. What about the first toy you were gifted? Can you remember all the toys you had when you were younger? Toys are wonderful, but they're not generally as impactful as the memories we create with traveling. When children grow up, they can look back and recall all their memories from traveling, whether those memories were good, funny, or bizarre, and remember the ones they spent time with and met along the way.
When traveling to new countries, we might be stepping out of our comfort zone a little bit. Yet, each time we do, we feel a bit more confident in ourselves. Similarly, with children, someone might be nervous about the activities/excursions that you have planned. When they start to travel, and these opportunities become more common, they get braver and confidence starts to build within them. This confidence then rolls over to when they are back into their regular routine of life.
Traveling can also help children figure out their interests more imaginatively and creatively by seeing the world firsthand. For example, maybe you notice that your child loves the adventure aspect of traveling, and each time you travel to a new country, they want to figure out all the outdoor adventures they can do. Maybe your child is interested in art and is intrigued by the details of buildings and desires to visit art museums. Learning this about themselves can help guide them in figuring out hobbies they want to involve themselves in or even potential career pathways that might be enticing for them.
Taking on responsibilities is another aspect of self-discovery that children might learn while traveling. At some point, all children will have to learn to take on responsibilities. When you give children responsibilities while traveling, this can provide children with more confidence in their own abilities. Maybe their responsibilities at first are to make sure they have their belongings, and when moving hotels or going between airports, they must oversee their items. These responsibilities might increase by having them plan a portion of the trip (with guidance, of course). Not only can this build confidence in children, but it keeps them involved and allows them to express what their interests are.
Bringing your children on international trips can seem overwhelming, but we genuinely believe that you and your children can benefit from these types of travels together.