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When returning from any big trip (you know, the kind that takes months of planning and several disappointed looks at your bank statement), I find it’s often the smallest of activities that is the most meaningful. And when I think of Venice, of course I think of the canals and the gondolas and the labyrinth of streets that get you hopelessly (but romantically) lost. (Seriously, Venice is gorgeous. Enough cannot be said about that.) But these are never my first thoughts. Read more
Don’t tell my scale. A little over two weeks ago, I was enthusiastically taste testing my way through the 10 restaurants onboard Oceania Riviera (one of our Top 10 Cruises in 2012), the brand new 1,250-passenger upper premium ship that was christened in Barcelona, a foodie-friendly city if ever there was one! Also a perfect match: the ship’s fit and elegant godmother, Iron Chef Cat Cora (shown at left), who took time from promoting her new Bravo series Around the World in 80 Plates to help break a bottle of bubbly against Riviera’s sparkling white hull just before we set sail for molto magnifico Venice. As I sipped and savored my way around the ship, sampling everything from foie gras with artichoke puree to lobster pad Thai – not to mention whipping up my own flaky scones and fluffy zucchini-and-mint frittata in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center – I began to question whether I love cruising more for the alluring and ever changing ports of call or for the indulgent, food-centric focus of many new ships. Read on to find out whether culture or cuisine won out.
Venice is one of my favorite places (I just returned from my 8th visit), but trying to figure out where to stay in this romantic maze of 117 islands and 409 bridges can be frustrating. There are so many options – this small city of 60,000 residents has several hundred hotels to cater to its estimated 15 million-plus annual visitors – it can make your head spin. Over the years, I have sampled about a dozen properties and here are five of my top picks that offer a terrific mix of location, service, and amenities – and range in price from about $150/night to $579/night.
There’s nothing like 3,500-year-old frescoes and 1,000-year-old cathedrals to put 50 years of life or 30 years of marriage into perspective – both are a mere heartbeat in the history of humanity. If you’re the kind of traveler who lives your life forever looking forward, but are entranced by the past, you may want to consider a cruise with Voyages to Antiquity. This two-year-old company offers a variety of 14- to 33-day itineraries in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Aegean (through late October) and Asia (November to March and featuring nine new itineraries). What differentiates VTA from other cruise lines is its laser-like focus on ancient cultures explored via extended voyages with lyrical names like “The Light of Greece” and “Those Who Seek Paradise.”
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spend more quality time with the person you love, then I suggest you enjoy that togetherness someplace amazing! And what’s better or more romantic than a stunning, sun-kissed island? There’s something innately sexy and bond-inspiring about the sea – floating together in gentle turquoise surf, walking hand-in-hand at sunset, enjoying the day’s fresh catch paired with a rum cocktail or a fine wine. So as the new year begins, here are my top 10 picks for the most amazing islands to escape to together in 2012. Read more
Spring usually means the arrival of warmer weather, blooming flowers, and higher airfare to Europe. Fortunately, KLM is breaking tradition and slashing rates on flights to London, Venice, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Barcelona, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague, Madrid, Zurich, and Stockholm! This sale coincides with the start of festival season in Europe, so why not pop over to Budapest for the Palinka food and wine festival, Barcelona or Madrid for May Day fiestas, and Stockholm for the popcorn film festival? Fly now through May 15 from Chicago, New York, Dallas, or San Francisco for rates as low as $278 one-way.
Sample Fares (O/W)
• New York City – Barcelona: $278+
• Dallas – Amsterdam: $313+
• Chicago – London: $336+
• Miami-Budapest: $374+
• Washington – Oslo: $379+
• Houston – Venice: $384+
• San Francisco – Madrid: $419+
THE VALUE: Fares to Europe in April and May are often close to $500 each way, so this sale saves you an average of $400 round-trip.
THE CATCH: Taxes and fees are not included, and these one-way prices are based on round-trip purchases.
THE DETAILS: Click here to book your flight with KLM.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the best hotel deals in Europe.
The hidden costs of most all-inclusive tours can quickly add up once you factor in gratuities, shore excursions, and single supplements. Not so with Smithsonian Journeys, which has just announced three new all-inclusive Mediterranean cruise deals that include: international airfare, shore excursions in each port, on-board lectures, gratuities to shipboard staff, and more. Unlike most cruises (where you won’t need any brainpower beyond what’s required for reading the latest trashy magazines poolside), be prepared to learn on these cruises, as they are run by the world-famous Smithsonian Institution’s travel branch.
The cruises offered are fairly lengthy, in order to allow cruisers to have ample time to explore the amazing cultural sites throughout the Mediterranean. Choose from:
“The Wonders of Turkey and the Greek Isles” (June 23-July 6) or “The Glories of Greece and Turkey” (July 1-14), which both stop in the Greek Islands of Crete, Delos, Mykonos and Samos; the historic Turkish cities of Ephesus and Aprodisias; and World Heritage sites in Athens and Istanbul. Land stops in Istanbul and Athens are also included. Book either one of these cruises by March 31st, and pay only $3,195 (which includes international airfare from select East Coast cities).
Or pay a little bit more ($3,750) and try the “Splendors of Italy and the Dalmatian Coast” (May 31-June 15), featuring the Italian cities of Rome, Corsica, Sardinia, Venice and Sicily; the tiny country of Malta; and Croatia’s Dubrovnik and Split.
All three cruises will take place on-board the 350-passenger Aegean Odyssey, which features a spa, pool, library, lecture theater, and a variety of dining options. Be sure to take advantage of Smithsonian Journeys’ unique lecture programs with on-board experts, to help you learn about what you’ll be seeing off the boat. Or, just hang out at one of the Odyssey’s three bars – your call.
It may only be entertainment, but the settings of movies and TV shows do have the power to transport. So it made me think that with the Oscars just a few weeks away, I should share my picks for the top 10 movies that capture both the romance and beauty of a place – and are actually fun to watch.
Bora Bora: Couples Retreat Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau may be the stars of this 2008 comedy, but Bora Bora steals almost every scene. Filmed at The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort (doubling as the fictitious Eden Resort – and shown above at left), the movie is not as winning as Wedding Crashers, but it will make you want to raid your bank account and fly off to this ridiculously romantic paradise.
New York City: When Harry Met Sally I live in New York City and this 1989 romantic comedy nails what I love most about my hometown – winter, spring, summer, and fall. With scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Central Park Boathouse, Yankee Stadium, and Katz’s Delicatessen (a sign still hangs above the seat where Sally showed Harry how to fake it), this Nora Ephron-written, Rob Reiner-directed classic is like calling a dear friend who lives here each time you watch it.
I happen to believe that every couple should experience the unique wonder of Venice, Italy at least once – and, ideally, at least once every few years. This amazingly ancient city never gets old for me, perhaps because I always avoid visiting during summer tourist season, when both the heat and the crowds are unbearable. There’s no reason not to plan a trip here in winter, spring, or fall – okay, so the weather can sometimes be unpredictable (it’s typically very cold and damp in December and January, yet I have seen it hit the high 70s in early March), but that’s part of the fun. In fact, here are 10 reasons why Venice beckons now through April.
The Luxury One of the advantages of a (relatively) small country like Italy is the possibility to travel from place to place in little time, for (relatively) little expense. Select Italy’s three-night Veneto at Your Fingertips itinerary is one such example, putting you in the heart of the country’s historic Veneto region for a fraction of the standard cost.
The Value Since your four-star digs are situated smack dab in the center of the province (20 miles from Venice, 30 from Padua), not only will all of Venice and Veneto be at your beck and call, but you won’t skimp on comfort. The “secret” property’s luxe amenities include complimentary buffet breakfast, Wi-Fi, laundry service, balcony rooms, private parking, complimentary shuttle to/from the hotel and local train station, an outdoor pool and free bike rental. Also included are one dinner, with wine, at the award-winning Da Odino restaurant, two train tickets to Venice along with a half-day guided tour, and a boat tour of the nearby River Sile. Rates start at $615 per person, double occupancy.
The Catch Meals/transportation while in Venice are on your own.
The Details 800-877-1755, www.selectitaly.com
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