Known as “the Venice of France”, Annecy is a beautiful town in the French Alps with lots to do. The town holds a farmers market a couple of times during the week, there are plenty of cute restaurants with traditional foods and it’s relaxing to walk along the quaint cobblestone streets of the old town crossing the river on bridges decorated with colorful flowers. The town also sits right on the picturesque Lac Annecy which provides loads of water fun – from beaches to paddle boats, etc. And if you’re visiting during the winter, while you won’t see the flowers, you could end up there during Annecy’s Venetian-style carnival celebration which is a big tourist draw for the participants’ beautiful masks.
An unassuming small/medium medieval city, Bern is actually the capitol of Switzerland and is worth a visit. Its central location allows easy access to the rest of the country and Bern, itself, has much to offer as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A lovely cobblestone main artery through the city is a beautiful mix of history and modern boutiques. This 4 mile stretch, lined with fountains and arcades, is the central stage for many events and activities planned in the town throughout the year.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
“La Costiera Amalfitana” is among the most famous and most beautiful stretches of the Italian coastline. This is a touristy area located in the Campania region just south of Naples on the Sorrentine Pennisula. With charming little towns built right into the side of the cliffs, this area is a breathtaking “must see”. Relax and enjoy the views as you drive the 25 miles (40 km) along the coast’s only road…and make sure to sample some limoncello!
San Fele, Italy
Well off the beaten path of Italy’s most popular tourist cities, this quiet little picturesque village sits nestled in the hills about 2 hours east of Naples in the region of Basilicata. Outside of Italy or maybe even outside of Basilicata, San Fele remains a bit unknown except to those of us with ancestral roots here. Due to a significant wave of emigration from San Fele and the surrounding region from 1880 – 1915, many Americans, Canadians and Australians can trace their families back to Basilicata. If you do take the time to visit the town, don’t miss the beautiful waterfall park – Le Cascate di San Fele!
Mount Pilatus, Switzerland
Here’s another fun way to spend a day in Switzerland! Lucerne is an easy point of departure, so take the ferry (or the train if you prefer) from there to Alpnachstad. Then, you can take the world’s steepest cog wheel train up the mountain for beautiful views of the lake and region. When done with the awe-inspiring vista, take the cable car part of the way down. The rest of the descent can either be by walking or by a fun ride on Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan run! Either way makes for a memorable adventure!
The gorges of the Ardèche, France
If you’re looking for a destination that provides the opportunity for an active vacation while exploring nature, the Ardeche is the region for you and the gorges there are not to be missed. The Ardeche is a department located in south-central France, roughly between Lyon and the Mediterranean coast. The Ardeche River is popular for canoeing and kayaking. However, you can also find rock-climbing, hiking and a host of other outdoor activities. And, since it happens to be a favorite destination for Swiss (and probably other area) school trips, we know this trip will be a big hit with the kids!
Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
Take a look at what life was like in Italy 2000 years ago…before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii is the more famous of the 2 sites but Herculaneum is just as well-preserved but smaller and less crowded than the nearby Pompeii. They’re both easily accessible by train from Naples. Well-worth the detour (my teens would even agree!).
I missed posting this on the official Valentine’s Day but it’s still within the same week and it’s never too late to talk about chocolate, right? Swiss chocolate is among the best in the world (I would say THE best but I know that there are other countries that would beg to differ…), so here are some great ways to take advantage of that Swiss chocolate experience. Enjoy!
Chamonix is a top tourist ski destination for its famous slopes. But during the summer there’s another reason to visit this quaint (albeit pricey) town – the Mer de Glace! France’s biggest glacier is accessible to the public via train and then cable car and then about 400 stairs. On the way down toward the entrance to the ice cave you can see the signs indicating where the ice level was over the years. Impressive to see how much it has shifted and melted!
Carnevale in Venice, Italy
Venice’s biggest annual event will be kicking off in about 10 days! Carnevale! (January 23-February 9, 2016).
Many towns around the world have festivals leading up to Mardi Gras but Venice hosts one of the most famous and most colorful – the weeklong festivities include a contest for the most beautiful mask. If you haven’t made your reservations for this year’s parties you’re better off trying to book for next year instead. You’re up against about 3 million other visitors! http://www.venice-carnival-italy.com/
As we head into winter, here’s a fun activity to help you thaw out! Check out one of the thermal bathes in Switzerland. There are lots of choices but one that we particularly enjoyed is Les Bains de Lavey, located about 20mi/30km from Montreux in Switzerland. Regardless of their claim to have the warmest thermal water in Switzerland, it is a beautiful location with thermal pools that run from indoors to outdoors and can be enjoyed regardless of your swimming ability. Open year-round but it makes more of an impression when you’re relaxing with steam rising from the hot water and snow falling around you.
Very centrally located, Strasbourg is the 2nd most popular tourist city in France. The city, itself, is beautiful and rich with history and architecture. And the Alsace region has so much to offer – a fantastic wine trail, beautiful little towns, a park where you can interact with monkeys and the 2nd largest amusement park in Europe (Europa-Park) are just a few of area’s highlights.
Maybe you’ve never thought of Italy as a destination for a ski vacation – the town of Breuil-Cervinia could change that for you. Cervinia is a ski resort located on the Italian side of the Matterhorn at the head of the Aosta Valley and has trails that link to other well-known resorts – Valtournenche and Zermatt. Skiing + Italian food = fun winter vacation!
Gruyères is so “perfect” it feels like you’re walking in a fairy tale! My favorite comparison is the beginning of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when Belle is singing and walking through that adorable, quaint little town. And, yes, this is the home of that wonderful cheese – so, stop here for a classic fondue lunch!
Les Gets, France
Now that snowflakes are on the horizon, it seems like a good time to get prepared for ski season.
We love Les Gets in France! If you’re looking for great uncrowded slopes, family friendly atmosphere and amazing views, this is your ski resort!
Rome is one of my favorite cities and it doesn’t disappoint!!!
Explore this city on foot so you don’t miss anything. Then relax and people-watch over a coffee or a glass of wine at a café in one of the many beautiful piazzas.
Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France
If you’ve never been to the Mont-Saint-Michel, it’s definitely worth the trip!!!
And even if you have been there, it’s worth a re-visit. It really is such a magical place and they’ve been working hard to improve the visitors’ experience.
There’s no time like the present!
This beautiful Italian island is one of our favorite vacation destinations! You’ll find beautiful beaches along the entire coast, but we prefer the south near Villasimius…
“The Swiss Path”, Switzerland
In honor of the Swiss National Holiday coming up in 2 weeks, here’s a hike that couldn’t be more “Swiss”. The “Swiss Path”, also known as the “William Tell Path”, was created to celebrate the 700-Year Anniversary of the Confederation (1291 – 1991) and includes historic sites along the route. It’s a long hike if you do the whole trail but can be accessed along the way in order to do just parts of the route. Either way, you’ll be overwhelmed by the breathtaking views!
Start packing your bags! July is the best time to see those iconic purple fields of Provence!!!
Cinque Terre, Italy
A “must-see” on the Ligurian coast! Arrive by train or boat and visit on foot!
The Gemmi Pass Hike, Switzerland
Beautiful hike and if you do it in the opposite direction you can end in Leukerbad and hit up the thermal bathes!