Archive for August, 2008

Arezzo: Have a Golden Time in Tuscany

I like that there’s continuity between the distant past and the present in many Tuscan towns. Take Arezzo. Not too many people go there, but it’s a really nice hill town first settled, as far as we know, by Etruscans. The Romans noted the the inhabitants did lots of nice metal and ceramics, and now Arezzo is known for its gold jewelery.

Agriturismo Le Gret - Arezzo, Tuscany Vacation Rental

Agriturismo Le Gret - Arezzo, Tuscany Vacation Rental

Take a place outside of town and you can go do lots of things in the countryside. How about canoing in the River Arno? You know, the famous river that passes through Florence. The Arno Valley is beautiful indeed.

That’s the Agriturismo Le Gret over there on the right. Nice setting, eh? Imagine, they make wine, olive oil, honey, nuts and truffles at the Agriturismo. You can buy food right off the farm and sit outside in a lawn chair and eat and drink to your heart’s content.

Then you could go into Arezzo and buy some jewelry. If it’s antiques you lust after, each first Sunday a month and the Saturday before, Arezzo’s famous antique market takes place on the Piazza Grande and winds through the little alleys that surround it.

And you know what dish the folks from Arezzo are noted for? Acquacotta. Yep, that’s “cooked water.” That can’t cost much, can it? Your dwindling dollar is safe in Arezzo, or at least I think it is.

Jazz It Up in Beaune, France!

Everybody loves French Wine! Well, that might be a bit over-the-top but the upcoming festival takes place from September 11 to 21 is a sure crowd pleaser especially with jazz thrown in. The festival brings about the major international players in the world and gets bigger every year for this 10 day festival.

The festival repeats the success of previous years and combines tasting of Burgundywines before each concert with a program of swing, blues, harmonies and improvisations. Where will this take place? In Beanue (pronounced bone), where the rest of the year it manages to retain the old world quality of small quaint village.

But this charming town is actually known as the capitol town of wines in the Burgundy Region. Made up of narrow cobbled streets and sunny squares dotted with cafés make it a lovely spot to sample the region’s wine anytime of the year. Besides fine food and classic French décor, you can even take a balloon ride over the entire Burgundy region. Beaune still manages to retain its air of an ancient French town while catering to the influx of tourists who come to sample and buy the wine.

Beaune Vacation Rental, France

Beaune Vacation Rental, France

What better way than take in the full aroma of Beaune than with a rental vacation home? It makes for the perfect hub to discover the entire region of Burgundy.

With many properties to choose from such as this 100 year old totally renovated 3 bedroom jewel for as low as $68 a night, you can see all of Burgundy too!

This way you can enjoy the festival, Beaune and Burgundy as well!

Things to do in Burgundy:

The prominent product in the Burgundy region naturally is the grapes. By not tasting and learning about these fine wines available would be a loss to recognize the true value of the culture of this province. One tour not to be missed is visiting a wine chateau where you will never feel like a tourist. You will grasp the influences of how the weather, types of grapes make up the classification system of grand, premier or table bottle of wine. Once home you can put that knowledge to good use and impress your family and guests.

Walking and cycling are popular activities in all of Burgundy and you can follow trails right through the pleasant wine-producing areas near numerous villages.

There are many galleries, museums and ancient villages within the area. You may not be able to hit on the entire area, but there is always time for another visit in the near future.

Musée Rolin – This museum has a vast collection of artifacts from the ancient Romans who settled in the small village of Atun, in which many of the structures within the confines of the fortified walls of the old town.

Fontenay Abbey – This UNESCO world heritage abbey was built in the middle of the 12th century near the town of Montbard. It is privately owned and is open for guided visits.

Hospices de Beaune – Founded in 1443 as a hospice for the poor of Beaune following the Hundred Years War, now converted, and preserved as a museum.

Stay in Southern Germany, See Switzerland

There’s one way to beat Switzerlands rather pricy hotels, and that’s staying at an inexpensive vacation rental in southern Germany.

Bonndorf Vacation Rental, Germany

Bonndorf Vacation Rental, Germany

Say you get a little vacation hideaway in Bonndorf for a week, like the one over there to the left. Never heard of Bonndorf? It’s in the black forest and has a 16th century castle. Lots of people come here to walk or bike on the scenic trails called Wanderweg.

Just down the road from Bonndorf is Schaffhausen, where you’ll see Europe’s biggest waterfall. Go north to Donaueschingen and you can walk to the source of the great Danube river.

All places you’ve likely never heard of. But if you’re pushed by your buddies to go to a place people have heard of, Zurich is just to the south of Schaffhausen, and Lake constance is just to the east. That should hold you for a week.

Have fun on your vacation in Germany and Switzerland!

France: Honfleur and the Normandy Coast

If I were to think back to what got me started thinking about being a perpetual traveler to Europe it would be the coastal village of Honfleur. Really. The guidebook descriptions of it got to me in a big way. I’ve always known the facts as presented to the travel courts: the light and the “quaintness” of it have made the coastal village of Honfleur an artists mecca, even today, when you don’t hear much about artists flocking to a particular place.

And you know what? I’ve been traveling to Europe since 1976 and I still haven’t been to Honfleur.

In some ways, that doesn’t bother me. There should always be a place you know you would enjoy on the next trip. Honfleur is my carrot, or perhaps the truffle that still awaits under the old oak tree.

Honfleur is in Haute Normandy, or Upper Normandy. It’s a place where the coastal fog diffuses the light, making everything you see richer–even the lilly pads–an aspect of light that the impressionists ate up, especially around Giverny and the house of Claude Monet. Giverny is also in Haute Normandy.

The other things that would attract me are the traditional foods, the rich foods of lush Normandy, doused in some of France’s best cream and butter (I am on vacation, thus I can afford to thumb my nose at the Food Puritans who’ve torn the great doors off the cathedrals of fine living). In any case you could ream out your arteries with ample doses of the local apple brandy called calvados, which I prefer to the grape variety.

Maison de Josephine - Normandy Vacation Rental

Maison de Josephine - Normandy Vacation Rental

There are the evocative, half-timbered cottages in the Normandy countryside like the one to the right. Maison de Josephine just plays the part of an artist’s cottage, doesn’t it? I mean you want to put on a beret and begin to hold up a messy brush to sight a point on the landscape you’re painting at the moment, don’t you? Imagine what kind of vacation pictures you could take of your cottage and the landscape. You wouldn’t have to leave your home to impress your friends and neighbors.

Did you know that half-timbered houses were designed to be dismantled and moved easily? That fact has nothing to do with this story, I just thought it was an interesting fact. Don’t get too many ideas about dismantaling Maison de Josephine and carting it off to Cleveland or somewheres just because you read something goofy here…

Anyway, you could rent this place and visit Giverny, where Monet did some of his finest painting, and of course Mont Saint Michel isn’t so far away, and of course you could visit Honfleur and bask in the light of its beautiful picturesque port, and of course you could tell me how it all is.

Maybe if your description is good enough, it will entice me to go there. I don’t want to rush into things, but who knows how high airline fares will go?

Neustadt and the Pfalz Wine Region

Ok, so you want to go to Oktoberfest in Germany this fall. Well, you’re a little late. They tell us that the tents are just about sold out. Sure, there will be cancellations as certain as there will be price increases–but you don’t want to buy an expensive ticket to Germany only to find out there isn’t a place for you inside, do you?

Well, my suggestion is to head over to the Pfalz wine region. That’s where I’m going in September. If you’re lucky, you might catch the Dürkheim Wurstmarkt. No, it’s not the worst market you’ve ever been to, It’s simply the main event of the year in the Pfalz. You can gulp down enjoy over 150 different wines in over 50 different places at this big festival.

Ferienhaus Lausekuppe - Germany Vacation Rental

Ferienhaus Lausekuppe - Germany Vacation Rental

You’ll need some lodging, of course. If you wanted to save a bundle, perhaps you’ll want to stay out in the country. It’s beautiful country indeed. The place over there to the left is in the middle of some vast green. And guess what? The cheapest rental rates are in the fall. Go figure.

The place is called “Ferienhaus Lausekuppe” and it sleeps four.

So, instead of trying to find a seat in a tent outside Munich, why not belly on up to a Schubkärchler? That’s a “small traditional wine stand with scrubbed wooden tables worn smooth over the years.”

I’m surprised you didn’t know that. But trust me, the wine of the Pfalz is first rate. You’ll love it.

I’m outta here. I gotta pack.

Rent a Rome Apartment While There’s Still Culture

It’s funny how politics gets muddled with travel. We’re recently learned that the new conservative party now in control of Rome has proposed a 500-hectare (1,250-acre) theme park on the outskirts of Rome while doing away with the extremely popular cultural legacy of progressive Walter Veltroni. Why? Unlike the young, single tourists that events such as White Night attracted to Rome, (deputy mayor Mauro) Cutrufo said he wanted to attract more families to visit, to reverse a slight drop in visitor numbers, “because families contain more people”.

Ah, money speaks, but through your children! “Ma, can I have that Caesar bobblehead? Please?! Pretty Please? I’ll clean my room! I neeeeeeed that!”

Anyway, your kids can get a more realistic view of Roman life if the Colosseum is built of fiberglass and the gladiators blood is really marinara sauce. Saves the kids the trouble of imagining things. You can’t be a politician (or journalist) today if you have an imagination, now, can you?

Rome Apartment in the Historic Center

Rome Apartment in the Historic Center

So go soon, while there’s still culture and nightlife to speak of. Maybe you’d be interested in renting the apartment, er, the Roma holiday get away shown on the left. This place even comes with covered parking. Now, you might say “great!” but think very closely about the alluring possibility of nosing your rental car into a small piece of pavement between the curb and a big tree at a very odd angle and wondering if the constabulary find it amusing that you, a mere tourist, can park like a real Roman so they forego the usual writing up of the ticket and move on shaking their heads and snickering…

If you’re really into getting with the culture, you’ll head over to Testaccio, where they’ve dug night clubs out of a big hill made up of amphora sherds. Dance the night away while thumbing your nose at the new administration in Rome and looking up at a ceiling made up of 2000 year old broken wine jars. That’s the ticket.

And just think, Testaccio is where the old meat processing went on. Folks learned to make tasty things outta stuff that hanged rather low off the hog. Offal is the thing they do best. You know, innards.


The Olive Garden in Greece

Ok, I’m gonna warn you. If you were shocked at the title, be shocked no more. I wasn’t referring to a place where you could get mounds of Pseudo-Italian food, I’m talking about a place to stay that’s just a bit northeast of Athens outside the town of Marathonas.

Marathonas or Marathon has become synonymous with a long distance run. You’ll remember from your history that a Greek soldier was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. He ran all the way, evidently.

In reality, “Marathon” is the Greek word for fennel. There’s lots of it around. Italians call fennel “finocchio” which is also synonymous in some circles for a gay man. You see, during times when repressive regimes and religions persecuted witches and homosexuals, they used to burn them “at the stake” as you remember from the fourth grade. Well, the stench was unbearable, as you might imagine, so they used to throw fennel on the fire to sweeten their memories of being so darn righteous.

The Olive Garden Vacation Rental in Greece

The Olive Garden Vacation Rental in Greece

Anyway, if you like Greece, you might want to stay for a week or two at the place over there to the right. Yes, it’s called the Olive Garden. You won’t get soft breadsticks there, which could be a good thing.

What you can do is loll about the pool. Imagine, the place was “Built 2000, Modernized 2002, Laid out garden.”

I’m thinking the people who built it must have been really out of the loop. Maybe they were spending all their time running to Athens for Persian rugs or caulk or something, because someone’s got to come in two years later and bring the thing up to modern standards. And the garden is laid out. That’s nice, no? Generally, I like to lie out in the Garden. “Gee, we’re winning the war and are heroes in Iraq” I might utter. I would lay there, too, but for the bugs that most gardens have.

I’m just having some fun here. Look at the place. It’s gorgeous, no? And look at the price for a week of bliss. It’s quasi nothing, as we say. And you can take a car to Athens.

And get this, there’s a beach! Look southwest of the town and you’ll see the beach of Schinias a popular windsurfing spot. The 2004 Olympic Rowing center is also located there.

What are you waiting for?


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