Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen
What to See During Your Day in Rouen
Star of a 30-painting series by Claude Monet, the gorgeous, Gothic-style cathedral (also known as the Rouen Cathedral) was built starting in 1145, replacing an earlier, 11th-century Romanesque church. Construction was halted and delayed numerous times, due to fire and the French Religious Wars, continuing through the 19th century. Once it was adorned with its cast-iron spire in the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world, until 1880 with the construction of the Cologne Cathedral.
You may have seen Monet’s many paintings of the cathedral, which capture differences in light throughout the day, hanging at such esteemed museums at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, The Met in New York City, The Broad in Los Angeles, The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, The National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade and The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Yet, nothing compares to the original.
Rue du Gros Horloge
Named for the “Great Clock” that you’ll see here - in operation since 1389, making it one of the oldest mechanisms in France! - this busy thoroughfare is lined with enticing shops, cafes and restaurants. The Gros Horloge itself is set in a Renaissance arch (where it has been since 1529) with the time, day of the week and phase of the moon depicted on both sides of the astronomical timepiece. The clock has inspired famous artists throughout the centuries, from author Victor Hugo to painted J.M.W. Turner.
Place du Vieux-Marché (Old Market Square)
A must-see historic spot to be sure, the Old Market Square is where Jean of Arc was burned alive on May 30, 1431. Look for the memorial - Le Bûcher by Jeanne d’Arc (“The Pyre of Joan of Arc”) - on the exact spot where this courageous French heroine, nicknamed the Maid of Orléans, was executed at the age of nineteen.
Notable for its flamboyant architecture and 80 stained-glass windows, the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen started life as a Benedictine abbey between the 14th and 16th century. While construction work started in 1318, it was interrupted by the Hundred Years War, and not completed until the 15th century.
Ready to visit Rouen on your Seine River cruise? I just know you’ll be delighted with this historic town’s character. Click the button below and let’s chat.
My personal photo of the front entrance to the Anne Frank House.
It's an easy 10 minute walk from Dam Square.
Visiting the Anne Frank House is a sobering, yet necessary, experience when visiting Amsterdam. The museum famously tells the history of the Frank family, who went into hiding in the building at Prinsengracht 263 on July 6, 1942. The family was later joined by the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer.
Three years later, in June 1945, Otto Frank was the only one of the group to return from Auschwitz. The main home was opened as a museum 15 years later, while, at Otto’s request, the annex, which had hidden eight people, remained empty.
In the Diary Room, view the original red-checked diary Anne Frank received a month before her family went into hiding. In 1944, upon learning that the government would be collecting personal diaries after the war, she rewrote her entries. The end result was 215 loose-leaf pages, some of which you can see in the museum. View, also, Anne’s “Favourite Quotes Book,” and her “Tales Book,” full of her original short stories.
Be sure to visit the thought-provoking “Reflections on Anne Frank” exhibit, containing a film in which more than 20 writers, actors and people who knew Anne speak of her and what she meant to them.
For a young girl who wrote, “I want to go on living even after my death,” in an April 1944 diary entry, her impact on the world has been unmeasurable. In an unspeakably sad way, her ambition in life, to become a famous writer, has come true and it is by visiting this important museum and reflecting on her experience that we can honor a life cut much too short.
This simple plaque hangs by the front door.
For a more in-depth visit, consider a museum visit plus introductory program, during which the museum docents will guide you through the history of Anne Frank in the context of World War II.
Prior to your trip, I can help arrange your tickets to the Anne Frank House, accessible only with an online ticket for a certain time slot. The tickets are released two months in advance and on the day of. It is recommended that you plan and book well ahead of time for your visit.
Nearby Amsterdam attractions to consider during a day in the city are the Van Gogh Museum, the Royal Palace Amsterdam and beautiful Vondel Park. It’s easy to walk, or even bike, about the city, as well as take a canal cruise to soak it all in. Together, we can craft an itinerary that allows for plenty of time at the Anne Frank House, as well as Amsterdam’s other top sites and experiences. Click the button below to schedule a consult.
Delicious and perfectly prepared mulled wine
Christmas markets in Europe take the holiday traditions up a notch. With the scent of roasted chestnuts in the air, the sound of caroling in the background and the feel of the invigorating frosty air, it’s hard not to be smitten with this manner of winter celebration. Perhaps one of the most enchanting aspects? The chance to wander the craft stalls and ornament booths while sipping a small mug of delicious mulled wine.
Most Christmas market cruises in Europe will start and end in a major capital city. Typically, you’ll find several departures out of Budapest or Passau, while others sail from Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Prague, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. Among the most popular stops are Vienna, Bratislava, Salzburg and Strasbourg, where the Christmas market tradition is still going strong.
Magical European Christmas Markets
Whichever itinerary fits into your schedule, you’ll be treated to centuries-old holiday markets, which were traditionally a way for local villagers to stock up on the supplies needed for the winter ahead. Today, amidst sparkling lights and a dusting of snow, visitors and locals alike peruse the stalls of holiday treats, toys, ornaments, handicrafts, hot food and, yes, lots of Glühwein. Nearly every public house in town will pour a delightful mulled wine to take the chill off. Translated to “glow wine,” this is exactly how you’ll feel after indulging in this seasonal treat. (In the Czech Republic, look for the Svařák stand).
Mulled wine in the process of being cooked to perfection
In anticipation of your Christmas market cruise in Europe, or perhaps to remind you of a wonderful cruise you already took, here’s how to make Glühwein at home (keep reading for a snack suggestions to go with your wine):
Traditional Mulled Wine
What to Snack on While Sipping Mulled Wine at a Christmas Market
When it comes to savory and sweet snacks, you won’t want for choice at a European Christmas market. Bring an appetite! My favorite bites while strolling the market are:
Mulled-wine recipe courtesy of https://www.thekitchn.com.
Are you ready to experience the markets and mulled wine for yourself? Click the button below to schedule a consult!
An absolutely perfect hiking day in the Wachau Valley.
One of the many perks of river cruising in Europe - and reasons I love it so much - is the ability to slip in and out of towns that most tourists never see, or even hear of. Such is the case with the quaint village of Spitz, Austria, where I recently had the pleasure of taking a hike, followed by a delightful wine tasting.
Located in the heart of Austria’s Wachau Valley - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - this wine-country town has been nicknamed “the town of a thousand buckets.” There is a rounded hill at the center of Spitz and it has been said that due to the region’s prolific harvest, one could fill the hole with a thousand buckets’ worth of grapes. Whether or not that myth is true, it’s no matter - I was here to taste the fruits of the harvest, in a wine glass.
The views while hiking are incredible.
But first, a hike. We walked right into town from the ship, which in our case, was docked there alone, providing us with the most spectacular and unobstructed views. We walked through the Old Town and then up into the hillside vineyards (some other guests chose to bike through town and the rolling Wachau Valley). The town appears as if from the pages of a storybook, with everything impeccably cared for and clean.
The AmaMagna is double the width of a standard rivership. When it's docked in Spitz no
other ship can dock at the same time, which made my day/evening extra special.
Finally, it was time for our much-anticipated wine tasting at the Klosterhof Spitz. Greeted by musicians in traditional garb playing the accordion, we learned about the history of winegrowing and winemaking in Spitz. After an event of tasting a range of vintages local to the Wachau Valley, there was time left to tour the cellars on our own, which was a lovely experience.
We visited the wine cellars at our own pace, which meant I could wander completely alone.
The Wachau Valley is known for its Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners, both of which we sampled. Among the most notable wineries near Spitz are Hutter-Silberbichlerhof, whose winemaking can be traced back to 1748, and Sighardt Donabaum on Zornberg, one of the oldest parts of Spitz.
Should you have the chance to spend a day in Spitz, I cannot recommend a vineyard hike and wine tasting experience enough. Are you considering a cruise on the Danube? Schedule a consult by clicking the button below and we'll get started.
I'll be sailing the Columbia & Snake Rivers on this paddlewheeler in August
Move over Europe. Await your turn, Alaska. Today, I turn my cruise focus to North America’s mighty rivers, from the Mississippi to the Columbia. Reputable cruise lines that have been around for decades are plying the historic waterways of our continent, revealing culture, cuisine and capitating cities along the way. Here’s a taste of what you can experience.
A Lower Mississippi voyage will sail from New Orleans to Memphis (or reverse)
Hear and feel the stories of the Mississippi, from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans. The farther you sail along the river, the more chapters are revealed. Learn why Chattanooga, Tennessee, was named by The New York Times one of the “Top 45 Places to Go” in the world. Feel the small-town charm of Decatur, Alabama, with its Civil War-era history and fantastic birdwatching. In Paducah, Kentucky, marvel at backstitch in the National Quilt Museum and discover the pivotal role the town played in American history.
In La Crosse, Wisconsin, take a break from the boat and cruise on four wheels instead - the Great River Road National Scenic Byway is considered one of the most scenic drives in America. Memphis appeals to the music lover in all of us with its Beale Street Historic District, Blues Music Hall of Fame, Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and more. And, of course, New Orleans, woos us with its cuisine and its character.
The Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island
An immersive, all-inclusive Great Lakes cruise will reveal the lovely towns that line the lakes, as well as some of America’s liveliest cities. As you sail Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior, you’ll step back in time, marvel at geological history and see native wildlife and experience local cuisine. Hike in Thunder Bay, Ontario’s, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and taste cheese freshly made at a nearby dairy farm. Cross the famous Soo Locks between Lakes Superior and Huron or find out why eastern Lake Superior is known as the “Shipwreck Coast.” Ride in a horse-drawn carriage on Mackinac Island, where no cars are allowed and admire the late-Victorian and art deco architecture of Alpena on Lake Huron.
The Columbia River Gorge
Columbia and Snake Rivers
For the adventurer in us, cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers unveils dramatic scenery and showcases the daring exploits of the frontiersmen and women who came before us. Feel the breeze in your hair as you stand on the decks of a mighty paddlewheeler, watching as rocky cliffs and ripped trees pass by. Wander through Astoria, Oregon, a picturesque port city awash with Victorian-style homes and known to be the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies.
Spend a day in The Dalles, known as the end of the Oregon Trail, and a hot spot for vineyards and orchards in the shadow of majestic Mount Hood. Watch kiteboarders take on the swells of the Columbia in Stevenson, Washington, and learn the Native American legends and see petroglyphs that tell the story of the Columbia Gorge.
America is rich in rivers and I invite you to consider these storied waterways when mulling over your next cruise destination. From the Cumberland to the Columbia, there is much to learn, feel, do and taste right here in our big backyard. I look forward to sharing my own experiences later this summer. For now, if your interest is piqued, let’s chat.
My delicious purchase at Confiserie Fürst
As ubiquitous as a Hershey’s Kiss in America, Mozart chocolates in Austria are a beloved confectionary tradition. Mozartkugel (or Mozartkugeln) are small, round, dark chocolate-covered balls filled with pistachio, marzipan and hazelnut nougat. They were first created by a confectioner in Salzburg named Paul Fürst in 1890 and named for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in the city. Fürst chose to name them for Mozart in honor of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death in 1891.
Master confectioner Fürst was awarded a gold medal for his popular chocolates at the 1905 Paris exhibition. Today, you can purchase handmade Mozartkugel (also called Mozart-Bonbons or Mozart Chocolate) at Fürst on Mirabell Square, more than 125 years after the first chocolate ball was formed. Mr. Fürst’s great-great-grandson is the owner of the company and still produces what is called the “Original Salzburg Mozartkugel,” a claim only they are legally allowed to make. The chocolates at Fürst are wrapped in blue and silver tinfoil, setting them apart from the red-and-gold-foil-wrapped treats you’ll find in just about every market throughout Austria. Two additional Fürst shops are located in Old Town on the Getreidegasse and Ritzerbogen.
I purchased my chocolates at this Fürst shop located in Old Town
A second shop, Mirabell, mass produces “Echte Salzburger Mozartkugel,” and claims to follow the original recipe. The name means “real Salzburg Mozart chocolate,” leaving out the word “original.” While it certainly also tastes divine, if your chocolate doesn’t say Fürst, it's not the Original.
So, how is the Original made? The confectioner forms a ball of pistachio and green marzipan surrounded by hazelnut nougat. The ball is put on the end of a stick and dipped in dark chocolate. Once the ball is removed from the chocolate, the remaining hole is hand filled with chocolate, leaving a small dot. Therefore, the original Mozartkugel aren’t perfectly round (a quick way to distinguish them from copycat Mozart chocolates).
If you just can’t get enough Mozart chocolate, consider a visit to Konditorei Schatz, a fantastic family-run cake shop in Salzburg. They, too, started producing Mozart chocolate balls around 100 years ago and still hand make them in their shop on the Getreidegasse. They claim to have been hand-dipping their chocolates since the 19th century, first selling it under the name Mozartkugel around 1900.
Although these chocolates are also delicious, they are not made with the original recipe.
How to enjoy a Mozart chocolate? Complement your chocolate with caffeine! OK, decaf will do, but I strongly suggest good coffee alongside your Mozart chocolates. It’s a chocoholic’s delight. Be sure to pick up plenty of extra Mozartkugeln - they make an excellent souvenir and gift.
Ready to taste the Original Salzburg Mozartkugel? Let’s chat about river cruising in Europe that will deliver you to Salzburg, home of these decadent delicacies.
A guided bike ride tour is a great way to explore Cologne
As an active observer on two wheels, a biking visitor to Cologne will earn a deeper appreciation of this fascinating cathedral city at street level - and travel in an environmentally friendly manner and get a good dose of fresh air. Guided tours can take you on an invigorating biking excursion through Old Town, along the river banks of the Old Town Park and more, an ideal way to sightsee for active adventurists. And there’s no need to worry about equipment, as bikes and helmets are provided.
Here’s what you may see as you spin your way through Germany’s oldest city - depending on your excursion, your particular bike tour may vary in what you will experience. No matter where you cycle, however, you can rest assured you’ll know more about this 2,000-year-old city - from the Roman ages to the Middle Ages to today - than you did when you started out.
The Hohenzollern Bridge
One of the biggest draws in the city, Cologne’s Old Town delivers oodles of charm. Cycle and walk through narrow alleyways past traditional houses, breweries, pubs and restaurants - perhaps stopping in for a Kölsch beer or Halver Hahn sandwich. Pop into the Romano-Germanic Museum, the Wallraf Richartz Museum, the Museum Ludwig or the Farina Fragrance Museum. Take a picture next to the Tünnes and Schäl monuments or Heinzelmännchen (Cologne elves) fountain. Shop like a local along the Alter Markt and Heumarkt.
This delightful site at the Neusser Wall is home to impressive, ancient walls, green lawns, old trees and a gorgeous garden with 70 species of roses. Stroll through the symmetrically arranged gardens or take a break from biking on one of the prettily placed benches or in the pavilion.
Be sure to pause as you cross this bridge over the Rhine for the best views of the Cologne skyline.
This vast park stretches along the Rhine, offering gigantic lawns, a miniature railroad, the Cologne Rhine cable car and the Claudius Therme Thermal Spa, the perfect spot to treat your weary muscles to a well-deserved soak.
A couple of my friends during their ride in Cologne
Famous for its photo op of the Cologne Cathedral, Crane Houses and a smattering of smaller towers, the Hohenzollern Bridge was built from 1907 to 1911. It was the only Cologne bridge not destroyed by bombs during World War II. Check out the colorful love locks hung along the bridge railings.
Take a break from pedaling for a visit to the Ludwig Museum, opened in 1976 with a gift of approximately 350 works of modern art by the Ludwig couple. You’ll also find an extensive collection of Russian Avantgarde painting and several hundreds works by Picasso. The modern art department of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum has been integrated into the Ludwig, including Roy Lichtenstein’s “Maybe” and Andy Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes.”
Talk about burying the lead … the Cologne Cathedral, a building that defies all superlatives, will be a highlight of your bike tour. The cornerstone was laid back in August 1248, the base for this Gothic cathedral that houses the remains of the Three Wise Men. The massive towers have dominated the city skyline since they were completed in 1880. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s shrine of the Three Wise Men and notice the impressive stained-glass windows and important works of art.
Rheinauhafen Harbor District
This reinvigorated waterfront complex is the youngest district in the city, offering an engaging mix of cafes, restaurants and galleries. The centerpiece is the Kranhäuser (crane tower) trio, three buildings shaped like hoisting cranes and defining the skyline along the west bank of the Rhine. If you’re an architecture buff, check out the trapezoid-shaped Art’otel Cologne with its colorful windows and picturesque collages. There’s plenty of history here, too, despite the renovations. The area’s former granary, the Siebengebirge (seven hills) makes a nice complement to the modern angles of the Rheinauhafen.
And more! There is much to see on two wheels throughout Cologne, particularly when you’re cycling with a professional local guide. Let’s chat about your active sightseeing adventure through this glorious German destination.
Easter is a wonderful time to visit Europe
Just about anyone who is interested in river cruising in Europe knows about the continent’s famous Christmas markets. But did you know that Europe’s Easter markets are just as wonderful an experience? Ringing in spring and celebrating the holiday, these colorful, festive events offer local traditions, culinary delights and one-of-a-kind souvenirs for those seeking an authentic, lesser-known shore experience when river cruising in Europe. Here are a few favorites!
Marking spring’s arrival, the Prague Easter markets are the most impressive in the country. A collection of wooden huts are vibrantly decorated in spring colors and brim with local handicrafts and traditional Easter treats. Look for ceramics, embroidered lace, wooden toys, glassware and more. Marvel at the hand-painted Easter eggs, either from fresh hen eggs or crafted from wood, and adorned with a variety of colors and designs. As for the tasty treats being sold, be sure to try the spit-roasted ham, flatbread topped with garlic, cheese and ketchup, and a beránek, an iced cake in the shape of a lamb. Later in the evening, when the chill of winter is still in the air, sip a warm medovina (honey wine or mead) or the Tatranský čaj, a spirit of 160 proof - sure to warm your insides!
Falling on the third Monday of April, the Sechseläuten spring holiday brings out locals and visitors to the burning of the Böögg, a snowman, to drive out winter and welcome spring! People dressed in traditional guild costume take over the promenade and the city comes to life. Around this same time, the historic Bremgarten Easter Market opens - a tradition for almost 800 years - with fun for young and old, including an amusement park and nearly 100 artisan stalls, all set along the Reuss River.
Preparation for Easter Markets being undertaken at Schonbrunn Palace
The chocolate bunny was created here, so it’s no surprise that German Easter markets up the ante with sweet treats, Easter trees decorated with hand-painted eggs and lively open-air markets. Visit the Main Market Square for the 16-day Häferlesmarkt in Nuremberg to fill your Easter baskets with wooden handicrafts, pottery and homespun textiles. In Michelstadt, attend the medieval town’s namesake market where you can watch crafter demonstrations, then see chicks hatch and the eggs from different bird species.
Listen to the soft sounds of jazz on the breeze as you browse the Salzburg Easter Market. The annual Easter Festival promises a full music program, stalls selling handcrafted candles, floral arrangements and palm leaves, and regional ham, butter and cheese. In Stubing, you can attend the ancient sunrise tradition of Palmbuschenbinden, held at the open-air museum’s smokehouse. Taste the local sausages, enjoy music and shop at the Villach Easter Market. In Vienna, the capital city celebrates its Easter market in the baroque setting of the Schloss Schönbrunn.
A cute display I found during an after dinner stroll through Vilshofen
Visit Easter markets throughout Europe on river cruises in the Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Poland, Germany and more.
Let’s chat about how to get you there in time for these springtime spectaculars.
The exterior of the Mozart house during my recent visit.
Mozart is a constant in our house. Whether it’s my husband or my daughter playing one of the great composer’s masterful pieces on the piano, or my other daughter playing a Mozart opus on the violin, the sounds of the classical idol have accompanied our life for years. It was fitting, I suppose, that at some point in my travels I would find myself in Mozart’s birthplace. Here I was at No. 9 Getreidegasse in Salzburg, Austria, alone for a few surreal moments in the very room in which he was born. A heady moment, to be sure. Here are just a few of the things I learned about Mozart that day and why I highly recommend a visit to his birth home, as well as his subsequent residence elsewhere in the city.
Wolfgang Amadé Mozart was born in 1756 on the third floor of a bright-yellow house on Getreidegasse, known at that time as the “Upper Hagenauer House on the Fish Market.” Today, the house is one of the most-visited museums in Austria. His family lived in the home for 26 years, starting in 1747, before moving to the Mozart Residence on Makartplatz Square. The birthplace museum was opened in 1880 by the International Mozarteum Foundation.
Mozart's original pianoforte. He received his child violin at the age of 6.
What You’ll See at the Mozart House
I suggest taking the hour-long tour through the original rooms of the Mozart House. You’ll see original certificates, letters and memorabilia from his life in Salzburg; a collection of portraits; and Mozart’s own violin and clavichord. You can also explore the reconstructed apartment that has been outfitted with furniture from the 18th century for an authentic feel. On the first floor, an annual exhibition keeps things fresh, so it’s even fun to return if you’ve visited the house-museum on a prior visit. You’ll leave with a new perspective on and appreciation for this musical genius.
Don’t Overlook the Mozart Residence
Once you’ve visited the Mozart House, move on to the Mozart Residence or “Dance Master’s House” on today’s Makartplatz. The eight-room apartment on the first floor, where the family lived from 1773 to 1787, has been converted into an intriguing museum. Mozart lived here until he moved to Vienna in 1781. The home suffered damage during World War II, but was bought and restored according to its original building plans by the International Mozart Foundation in 1955. Look for Mozart’s pianoforte, original documents, portraits and more, and attend concerts and talks that dive deeper into the Mozart experience.
A few of the items on display that I saw during my visit.
More About Mozart
Did you know …
… that Mozart was a knight?
In fact, he was dubbed by the Pope a “Knight of the Golden Spur.” Much to his father Leopold’s chagrin, he didn’t marry a baroness befitting of his royal station, but in fact married for love.
… that Mozart wrote a poem for his bird?
In keeping with the family’s penchant for music, they typically kept songbirds as pets. (They also had a fox terrier named Pimperl.) When Mozart lived in Vienna as an adult, he continued to keep birds, including a starling to whom he penned “Poem to a dead starling” upon its passing in 1787.
Are you a music lover? Let’s chat about why you should include the Mozart House and Mozart Residence on your trip to Austria!
Truffle hunting in Avignon on a perfect spring day!
What’s one of the most authentic experiences one can have when visiting Avignon, France? Truffle hunting! If offered the opportunity during your visit to the region, you really must say, “oui, oui!” You can meet truffle farmers and learn about the business, and best of all, meet their truffle-hunting dogs. You’ll bring home a whole new perspective on your favorite truffle fries.
Ready to sniff out truffles? Here are a few fun facts about this palate-pleasing treasure.
Freshly harvested truffles
As if Provence wasn’t enchanting enough … with its fields of lavender, sunflowers and incredible food and wine, now you can add a truffle-hunting experience in Avignon to the list during your river cruise.
The perfect way to end truffle hunting - a snack of truffles on toast!
Let’s chat about how to make sure your itinerary includes truffle hunting. Delicieux!