Minneapolis to France: Always a Good Idea

Minneapolis to France: Always a Good Idea

Having traveled from Minneapolis to Europe, it seems odd to have never stepped into France. When the opportunity presented itself, I signed up for the journey.

This tale is of my motor coach tour through France that begins and ends in Paris.

Day 1

I arrived in Paris on a chilly, wet November morning and met up with my group; a group of 28 mostly women from all over the United States. That evening our #csmyway tour had arranged a fabulous welcome dinner for us just off the Champs Elysees at Le Sud. I can tell this week will be about baguettes, croissants, wine, and more wine.

Day 2

We woke up early to board the bus and head to Rouen, this day being November 11th is a holiday in France and locals are out enjoying themselves with their families instead of working. The town of Rouen is lovely with a fabulous cathedral where the sound of the bells draw you towards its entry. This town is also where Patron Saint Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and the new church that occupies the land pays homage to Joan with beautiful gardens and stained-glass windows. Our motor coach tour is a highlights tour, so our visits are short, and we head back to the bus to travel to Honfleur. Honfluer is a small fishing town where the Seine meets the English Channel, we stop for crepes and wine, a walk around town and of course visit the storefronts for a little shopping. It’s rainy cats and dogs and sleeting as we head to Deauville, another seaside resort on the Cote Fleurie of the Normandy region. Deauville is known for its horse racing and film festival and has the closest beaches to Paris making this a holiday destination.

Day 3

The sun is peaking through the clouds on the Normandy Beaches, this seems so fitting to warm the sands for our fallen soldiers. The museum and graveyards are a must for anyone visiting this country and everyone on our tour wishes our visit here would be much longer. Our guide Patricia, who has a lovely British accent reminds us we are on a highlights tour visiting the “Gems of France” and we did get to stay longer than the other tourists. This spot will be forever engraved in my mind, not only for the sorrow and beauty, but also its peacefulness. A visit to Le Mont-St. Michel, before we leave for the walled city of St. Malo in the Brittany region, and once again quickly after we arrive it is hailing! Thank goodness it is always a good time for wine and French fries. France is all about the wine and food!

Day 4

As we head toward the Loire Valley, we make a stop in Angers. Three of us decided we needed to do a quick run through the Chateau d’Angers and headed across the mote, through the drawbridge and up the many, many, steps to the top. Here, we can see across the land and down the river Maine, thankfully we have no enemies in site.

As the sun continues to shine, we make our way down the Loire River. Note to self: Comeback with my husband, rent a convertible, wear a scarf and sunglasses.

I watch too many Hallmark movies. We have a lunch break in Saumur, where I will forever remember our cafe had a bathtub for the bathroom sink and back across the Loire River to Tours. This town of Tours rocks, lots of nightlife, people out walking, many shops and cafes. I love how everyone still sits outside even when it is 40 degrees, or should I say 4.444 Celsius.?

Day 5

This morning we are off to Amboise to visit the Chateau de Chenonceau spanning the river Cher. A gift from Henry ii for his mistress Diane de Poitiers, she lived here until his death, when the wife of Henry II, Catherine de’ Medici, kicked her out. I love history.

We have a surprise treasure on our journey and stop at a vineyard for wine tasting. Many cheers from the motor coach as we head to the Plou and Gils family winemaking since 1504. Very fruitful stop since the wine tasting turned into many purchased bottles of wine and shared by us all later in the evening.

Day 6 

Free day in Paris!

Day 7

Morning tour of Paris, with the afternoon spent shopping in Galeries Lafayette next to the Opera. An evening dinner on the Champs Elysees (talk about best Creme Brûlée EVER) followed by a cruise down the river Seine. The fact the city is filled with riots and the police are out in full force carrying teargas and other massive weapons, somehow disappears as our boat floats down the river Seine and the full moon shines upon the Eiffel Towers twinkling lights in triumphant beauty. 

Yes, indeed. France will always be a good idea.

Minneapolis-travel-agency-France-trip

Article Written By: Kay George

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Christmas Markets on the Rhine Cruise

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Christmas Markets on the Rhine Cruise

Love Christmas and chocolates and creative gifts, but hate battling the frigid cold (even while sipping hot cocoa and mulled wines)?

Then a visit to Zürich’s indoor Christmas Market is sure to feel like a special holiday treat! Our Coon Rapids Travel Agent spotlight is featuring a girlfriends getaway in December 2018 with our Christmas Market Cruise down the Rhine River, including a stop in Zurich.  Wondering what you’ll experience in Zurich?  Read on to get a glimpse of Zurich at Christmas.

Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof Train Station

 

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight Christmas Markets Cruise Zurich

The festive Christmas Market held at Zürich’s busy Hauptbahnhof Train Station (aka Zürich’s Main Station) is one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe. It may be a White Christmas and winter wonderland outside but keep cozy and warm in here — with 150 festively decorated market stalls to get in the yuletide spirit. The fragrant scent of cinnamon, Glühwein (mulled wine), Glögg (another mulled wine), traditional tirggel biscuits (which have been enjoyed here since 1461), Christstollen fruit loaf and roasted almonds waft through the station, beckoning commuting travelers and shoppers alike. Find handmade gifts full of character – including Christmas ornaments, jewelry and handmade candles as you listen to Christmas carols. But of course, the big showstopper here is the 50 foot Christmas tree decorated with between 5,000-7,000 Swarovski crystals and ornaments.

Touring the station

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Christmas Markets Cruise in ZurichWhile the Christmas market is a highlight, many tourists come to see the magnificence of the station. The market, which was originally starting in 1994, had humble beginnings starting with just a dozen stalls. While it has flourished in the relatively few years since its founding, its location of the Hauptbahnhof station lends it an older, more established feel.

The station, which opened in 1871, is a  Neo-Renaissance masterpiece which features an elegant triumphal arch at the main entrance and faces the dazzling Bahnhofstrasse. Richly decorated lobbies, atriums, restaurants, halls and a monumental fountain commemorating Swiss Alfred Escher – it is clear to see why it is listed as Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National Significance – and a must-see in its own right.

The Bahnhofstrasse

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight Christmas Markets in ZurichOf course, there are many other ways to celebrate Zürich’s holiday season. One of the most popular favorites is strolling down the vibrant and exclusive Bahnhofstrasse. This is Zurich’s most tantalizing shopping avenue and it is always at its most stunning when aglow for the holiday! Bahnhofstrasse is one of the most expensive and exquisite shopping avenues in the world, on par with New York City’s 5th Avenue – and home to stores like Bvlgari, Hermés, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Shopping here anytime is a special treat but during the holidays, the street becomes particularly magical. As if the bling in nearby Tiffany’s and Dior weren’t quite enough, 12,000 glittering LED lights are sure to keep the festive twinkle in shoppers’ eyes. The annual Santa Claus Parade also uses the Bahnhofstrasse as its annual route.

The Wienachtsdorf Market

The Wienachtsdorf is another one of Zürich’s popular markets. Set in Old Town by the spectacular Opera House, the market caters to shoppers with 100 red market stalls, delicious foods and artisanal goodies. Look for incredible fondue chalets and intricate wooden ornaments to add a something cheery and bright to the festivities.

The Market at Werdmuhleplatz

The Christmas Market at Werdmühleplatz is Zürich’s newest market. It is still notable for its sweet ‘singing Christmas tree.’ No, this is not some hokey electronic tree – but a many tiered stage (rising up in the shape of a tree), where kids line around and sing out carols. This sweet and charming small market is sure to charm you as you shop and explore the wonders of Christmas.

Ready to board our cruise and book your girlfriends’ getaway?  Coon Rapids based Riverdale Travel is ready to help!

 

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, Peru

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, Peru

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, Peru

When it comes to adventure travel, there’s no other place like Machu Picchu!  From the beautiful mountains to hiking the Inca trail, our Coon Rapids travel agent office can help you book the trip of a lifetime.

Machu Picchu Highlights

For many travelers who visit Peru, Machu Picchu is the #1 attraction and the highlight of the trip. Over the years, Machu Picchu has become South America’s most famous archaeological site, and one of the top attractions in South America. Machu Picchu is located in a beautiful setting, on the ridge of a mountain overlooking the Urubamba river valley and surrounded by the high Andes. To ensure you have the best possible experience when visiting Machu Picchu, it pays to do some homework.

Machu Picchu History

The citadel of Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and founded around 1450. The site was abandoned around 1570. Because of its remote location and very difficult access, Machu Picchu was unknown to the Spanish conquistadors, and thus left undisturbed for centuries. It was in 1911 that Hiram Bingham, an American professor and archaeologist at Yale University, led an expedition that discovered Machu Picchu, with the help of local guides. In subsequent years, there were several expeditions to clear the forest and rebuild and preserve the ruins – an effort that continues until today. Machu Picchu is a marvel of engineering, especially when you are on site and you see how difficult the access is. While don’t know exactly why the Incans built it, Machu Picchu was a religious, administrative, and trading center.

Your Visit to Machu Picchu

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Machu Picchu, PeruThe Popular Approach

The most popular approach is to travel from Cuzco or your hotel in the Sacred Valley on the day of your visit. I don’t recommend this approach for several reasons. For starters, it is exhausting, as you have to get up very early from either Cuzco or your hotel in the Sacred Valley to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, then a 30 minute drive up the mountain to the main entrance. Secondly, by the time you arrive at Machu Picchu, you will be visiting the site at peak occupancy. After your visit, you take a bus back down the mountain to Aguas Calientes , catch your train + transfer back to your hotel. It is is typically too much to pack into 1 day. Your tickets are only good either in the morning (Until 12N) or in the afternoon (12N to 5pm), which will add another level of complexity to your visit.

Overnight Stay in Aguas Calientes

A second options is an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes and highly recommended. When you spend the night before in Aguas Calientes you will have 2 opportunities to visit the ruins, with more time to explore the site and nearby hikes. In addition, the weather is unpredictable, so if you go on 2 different days you have 2 shots at being able to get great photos. When I visited, I had sunny weather on day 1 and rain/clouds/mist and partial sun on day 2.

Giving yourself the option of 2 days will eliminate the need to rush through the site. My advice is to take the morning train, have lunch at your hotel in Aguas Calientes ( the lunch options at the ruins are poor, crowded, and overpriced), then go up to the ruins around 2pm, when the day trippers start to leave. Stay until closing time at 530pm for great afternoon photos. The following morning, get up early, see the site early in the morning, leave when the site starts to get crowded, then take a train out in the afternoon.

Admission to the ruins

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, PeruOn any given day, up to 2,500 visitors enter Machu Picchu. To manage the demand, the Peruvian government started offering either morning or afternoon ticket options, as of 01JUL17. The morning ticket is good from 6am until 12noon, and the afternoon ticket is good from 12noon until 530pm, when the site closes.

Exploring the ruins

There are two main areas of the ruins, separated by a series of open grass plazas. Standout locations are the Intihuatana (hitching post of the sun), the Temple of the 3 windows, the temple of the sun (best photographed from above), the royal tomb, and the temple of the condor. Take time to wander around the areas where the nobility lived, and compare the sites and construction with the areas where the commoners and laborers lived.

Hiking around Machu Picchu:

For the fit and intrepid, you have several options. The most famous is the hike up the Huayna Picchu (or ‘Young Peak’) the steep mountain in the back of the ruins. This is the most demanding hike up a steep and narrow path (not for anyone who suffers from vertigo), which takes about 1 hour each way. There are only 200 permits at 7am and another 200 at 10am, and you’ll need to buy a separate ticket. The second hike is all the way up to the Cerro Machu Picchu (you will also need a separate permit) which is tough, as you climb over 2,000 ft over sea level on a stone path. The third option, and the one I took, is to hike up to Intipunku, or the ‘sun gate’, which is the terminus of the Inca Trail. You do not need a separate permit for this hike, and you get a sense of the terrain and great vistas of the ruins from a distance.

Elevation

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Machu Picchu, Peru

Many travelers do not know that Machu Picchu (elevation 7,900 ft. over sea level) is actually at a lower altitude than Cuzco, which is at 11,000 feet over sea level. Aguas Calientes, where the train drops you off, is at 6,693 ft. over sea level.

Other practical advice when visiting Machu Picchu:

  • Bring a knapsack with water and snacks.
  • Wear hiking shoes or comfortable walking shoes with good rubber soles
  • Bring a hat and sunscreen
  • Pack a small umbrella or rain jacket, especially October through May
  • High season runs from June to September, normally cooler and drier than the rest of the year
  • Dress in layers, as the weather is unpredictable

The trains to/from Aguas Calientes have very limited overhead or storage space. If you are spending the night, My recommendation is to pack a small overnight bag and leave your bigger suitcase at your hotel.

Train service to/from Aguas Calientes

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, Peru

The only way to travel to Aguas Calientes is by train. Peru Rail offers 3 options. The most luxurious is the Hiram Bingham, which you can catch from either Poroy (near Cuzco) or Ollantaytambo. This is a deluxe experience, complete with meals, transfers, guided visit in Machu Picchu, the works. The second option is the Vistadome train, which you can catch at either Poroy or Ollantaytambo. Vistadome offers comfortable seats, free non-alcoholic drinks, and multiple departure times. The third and less expensive option is the Expedition train, also available from Poroy or Ollantaytambo, a more basic rail service that is popular with budget travelers.

Where to stay

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, PeruThe only hotel at the ruins is the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. This small (31 rooms), luxury hotel is right outside the main entrance of the ruins. Because of its location and services, this hotel is very popular and books months ahead of time.

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, PeruIn Aguas Calientes, there are 2 great options. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a beautiful hotel hidden on the side of a mountain surrounded by lush vegetation and tropical gardens. The hotel boasts of 81 rooms spread out over 12 acres, and is within walking distance to the main train station.

Coon Rapids Travel Agent Spotlight: Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Finally, there is the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, the newest of the 3, located on banks of the Urubamba river and offering 62 rooms andsuites,  and is also walking distance to the train station. Sumaq has the advantage of being in one building, so everything is easily accessible. The hotel offers spacious rooms, a great restaurant, and a small spa in the lower level.

Machu Picchu is a must see stop on any visit to South America.  The agents at Riverdale Travel are ready to help you make Peru your next trip-of-a-lifetime.

Great Winter Event

Great Winter Event

Riverdale Travels’ Great Winter Event is here! Save hundreds on vacation packages to your favorite resorts in our most popular destinations! Sun-drenched beaches in Mexico. Beautiful turquoise waters in the Caribbean. Lush jungles in Central America. Island hospitality in Hawaii. It’s all available now!

Escape to a tropical utopia full of sun, sand, and happiness! But hurry – these amazing deals won’t be around for long! Begin planning your vacation today!

Book by January 25, 2018. Let’s Go! »   <— CLICK for pricing

Lindblad Expeditions : Free Roundtrip Airfare on Select 2018 Galapagos Sailings

Lindblad Expeditions : Free Roundtrip Airfare on Select 2018 Galapagos Sailings

When you plan your travel with us, you get a world of benefits unique to your needs. Our mission goes beyond simply offering extraordinary amenities, it is about experiences beyond compare.

Lindblad Expeditions Promotion: Free Roundtrip Airfare on Select 2018 Galapagos Sailings

Click HERE to learn more about it!

EXCLUSIVE AMENITIES – $50 per Couple Shipboard Credit

Booking Window: Valid for new bookings made by July 31, 2018- Capacity controlled.

CRUISE INCLUSIONS
    • 7-nights accommodations
    • All meals aboard ship and more
    • 2-nights hotel accommodations
Terms and Conditions:
  • Promotion is per person, regardless of occupancy.
  • Air must be ticketed by Lindblad Expeditions.
  • Free Airfare is based on round-trip economy flights from Miami.
  • Air inclusive pricing is reflected in the pricing tab on the offer page on SigNet.
  • Promotion is subject to availability and may be changed at any time.
  • Promotion is capacity controlled and may be withdrawn without notice.
  • Other restrictions may apply.