Tag Archives: france

The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Filed under Africa, Baltic, Croatia, Cruises, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, North America, Norway, Poland, portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, tanzania, USA

NEW Chocolatine Workshops in France

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Bonjour! Chocolatine introduces some fabulous workshops available during your fabulous trip to France! Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel for more info on these one-of-a-kind tours!

NEW – Chocolate Workshop

  • *Learn the secret of making delicious chocolate candies and confections with Laurent, a talented master chocolatier, in his private workshop in a non-touristy area of Paris.
  • *Taste a variety of chocolates as you learn about the process from cacao bean to chocolate bar.
  • *Participate in hands-on chocolate candy preparation with Laurent and write your name in chocolate on your creations!
  • Duration: 90-minutes
  • When: Monday through Friday
  • Number of Guests: 2-5 people

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NEW – Just Croissants Workshop

  • *Spend 4 glorious hours learning how to make croissants—perfect, beautiful, authentic croissants—from scratch with Johanna, a very talented pastry chef in her new atelier!
  • *Discover the secrets of the flaky pastry as you leaven the dough, fold in the butter, shape the croissants, and prepare cream fillings.
  • *Savor your freshly-baked goodness with a beverage, and take away the rest!
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • When: Monday & Tuesdays
  • Number of Guests: 3-6 people (no children under age 10)

Our NEW Chauffeur for you!

  • We have just connected with a fantastic chauffeur, ready to drive you around Paris! Although Paul is not a tour guide, he can showcase the highlights of the city and offer excellent information about the neighborhoods, monuments, and historic sites. If his guests want to enjoy a short coffee break… take photos… make a quick stop for a patisserie… Paul is happy to make it all happen!
  • Paul drives a brand new Nissan Qashqai
  • Number of guests: 3 people maximum – 1 in front, 2 in the back.  

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Giverny with Paul!

  • If you enjoyed the city drive with Paul, he’s just as delighted to escort you to Giverny!
  • Includes: Hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • About 3 hours in Giverny, a visit to Monet’s garden, and time to stroll through the charming village.

Taste of Nice (an exclusive Chocolatine tour!)

Chocolatine’s wonderful Niçoise guide Monique (Nice-born and -raised!) takes visitors on a fantastic walking tour of Nice. Many summer guests enjoyed it immensely! For September and October travelers visiting the Riviera, this half-day (4-hour) tour provides a chance to discover the real heart and soul of Nice.

Highlights:

  • *Discover the unique architecture of the city.
  • *Meet the locals and discover the traditions of the Niçoises.
  • *Enjoy an introduction to AOC Olive Oil in the Alziari boutique—owned by the same family for five generations.
  • *Discover how a perfumer masters the creation of fragrances, while learning about the history of perfume. Create your own special perfume!
  • *Visit the oldest cellar in Nice (1860) where the owner, Franck, personally welcomes you. Add your name to a guest list that has included Elton John and Brad Pitt, and enjoy a conversation with Franck about his wine passion and his hometown of Nice.

Chocolatine in France. Hailing from France and based in the Pacific Northwest, Chocolatine offers private services in France that are 100% tailored to your needs. We work closely with them to arrange private excursions in Paris and elsewhere in France.

Call us to book at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under France, News, Travel by Taste

Louvre Pyramid “Disappears!”

From the Desk of our friends at Chocolatine: 

Bonjour! 

The French are masters of trompe l’oeil —literally, “fool the eye”—and the latest example is delighting Parisians and visitors from around the world. The renowned graffiti artist, JR, has made the pyramid in front of the Louvre his latest optical illusion. From now through June 27, if you want to see what the museum looked like before I.M. Pei constructed the glass pyramid, just take a walk over to the Louvre—you won’t believe your eyes!

NOTE: Just a friendly reminder: selfie sticks are forbidden inside the museum (but not outside of course!)

More info (and pics) at Condé Nast:

http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2016-05-31/in-paris-artist-makes-louvre-pyramid-disappear

About Chocolatine: Based in the Pacific Northwest, Chocolatine is a spectacular tour company that offers private services in France that are 100% tailored to your needs. We have worked closely with them for years to arrange one-of-a-kind excursions in Paris and elsewhere in France. Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss options for unique explorations within Europe at 800-821-0401 or email us at info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Europe, France, News

Paris on a Dime

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flickr creative commons (c) Vincent Anderlucci

Think the City of Lights is expensive? It doesn’t have to be.

Airfare to Europe has been relatively low this summer, and travelers can continue the trend of saving money once in the city. Saving can be valuable especially on a longer trip, say to three major cities like London, Amsterdam, and Paris.

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flickr creative commons (c) Moyan Brenn

So let’s take a quick look — here are some cost-saving methods to see La Belle Paris:

Walk around. Paris is a big city, but so much can be seen and enjoyed on foot. Don’t forget to head out from the metro and wander around — who knows, maybe an afternoon getting lost will turn into an afternoon munching down succulent delicacies at a secret patisserie. Plus, it’s always good exercise! (Just bring a pair of good walking shoes.)

Free Museums. The Paris Museum Pass is a wonderful way to see some of the best art collections and attractions in France. Let your Wittravel agent advise you whether or not you would benefit from a pass. However, did you also know some Paris museums are free? Maison Victor Hugo, where the writer lived while composing Les Miserables, the pretty gardens at Musee Carnavalet, and the remains of a Roman Theater at Arenes de Lutece are all open to the public at no charge.

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flickr creative commons (c) Moyan Brenn

Hop on a Boat. At Wittravel you can pre-book a boat tour, at a low per person price, and cruise the Seine river. These 1- or 2-hour trips are best enjoyed at dusk, when the lights bloom all over the city, and the Eiffel Tower begins to glow. Some boat trips even offer you champagne tasting or historical lectures on board.

Take a Day Trip. You can reach a lot of interesting sites on the outskirts of the city by just taking the local commuter RER. Visit Auvers-sur-Oise for Van Gogh, the charming town of Crécy-la-Chapelle, the royal chateau at Fontainebleau, or the medieval villages of Moret-sur-Loing and Provins.

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flickr creative commons (c) Cristian Bortes

Window Shop. True, it’s not technically shopping, but who doesn’t love it? Check out the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps to see luxury clothes, chocolates, jewelry, what have you, in all of their glory. And you don’t have to spend a dime — but you always can if you want to.

which brings me to…

Splurge! It’s Paris — don’t forget to spoil yourself a little. Take your special someone out to a fancy dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Buy that necklace as a token of your trip. Live a little — you’re on vacation after all!

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Filed under Art & Architecture, Europe, France

Chauvet Cave Paintings

Our man in France Jacques V headed down to the Ardeche region to check out the Chauvet cave and its replica that opened recently to the public. The cave contains the earliest known cave paintings in the world, which are estimated to date back about 36,000 years old!

Discovered in 1994, the cave is located in the Gorges de l’Ardeche in south-east France (near Provence) and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unfortunately visitors cannot enter the cave proper (due to threat of damage and deterioration) but there is an exact full-size replica just a few kilometers away, which opened on April 25 of this year–and still see an exact reproduction of this ancient art.

The paintings depict cave lions, panthers, cave hyenas, bears, rhinos, as well as “Venus” figures and hand prints. In addition to art, the cave contains a child’s footprints, charred remains of a heart, smoke stains, paw prints of cave bears, and fossilized bones of bears and of an ibex. Check out Jacques’ spectacular photos below!

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http://en.cavernedupontdarc.fr/

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Filed under Art & Architecture, Europe, France

All About Day Tours

A new, foreign country can be daunting. Imagine heading out with only yourself and a guidebook. You can waste precious trip time wandering unfamiliar streets and unexpected corners with only a vague sense of the highlights. Where is that Cafe you’re friend told you about in Montparnasse?

Why not hire a local guide for a few hours or even for a day? Friendly, approachable guides love to chat about their city and introduce visitors to the local culture. Theirs is a personal, tailored touch that can’t be replicated from a guidebook. Since they already know all the best places to visit and the best way to get there, they can be a great source to save valuable time and money you could instead spend on that gelato.

Day trips can be simple walking tours around Rome, dinners with flamenco dancers, or full day excursions to see Stonehenge. They can be tailored to your needs, providing private services for you and your family or group tours with 12 or more people at affordable prices.

We at Willamette Intl Travel have contacts all over the world that come highly recommended. Have a destination in mind? Let us open your experience by arranging day trips with any one of our great guides. Here is a sample of the best:

Anselmo in Lisbon. Anselmo and his band has provided tailor-made tours all over Portugal and Spain for the last 15 years, specially designed for private families and small groups. They can take you on unforgettable day trips to Sintra and Lisbon or multi-day tours through the Douro Valley, Santiago de Compostela, or the amazing cities of Batalha, Tomar and Evora. “Just a note to tell you how wonderful Anselmo has been. If you can imagine being squired around Portugal by Mr. Carson of Downtown Abbey, but with a sense of humor, you can get a sense of Anselmo” ~~ Carla, client of Wittravel

Spanish Trails in Barcelona. This group offers amazing and unique tours in and around Barcelona.Their tours include wine tastings in the Catalonia countryside, sea kayaking along the Costa Brava, and food and wine tours in the city.

A&R in Rome. Adrienne & Renato are a husband-wife team, she from Portland and he from Naples. With their team of local guides they can arrange everything from private Pompeii tours to dinners in the Tuscan countryside. Their services include close, personal attention illuminated by a background in art history and mythology.

Chocolatine in France. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Chocolatine offers private services in France that are 100% tailored to your needs. We work closely with them to arrange private excursions in Paris and elsewhere in France. Recently, they have helped to track down a client’s ancestral ties in battlefields in Alsace-Lorraine.

Meli in Istanbul. Meli is the founder of MeliTours, an exceptional tour company based in Kusadasi. For years they have escorted our clients in unique itineraries in Turkey, Greece, and on sailing trips along islands and coasts.Their guides are passionate, knowledgeable, and geared toward the interests of each individual guest.

Laura in Cape Town. Laura’s Township Tours is operated by Laura Ndukwana who was a born and bred in Guguletu, South Africa. As a tour guide for 17 years, she is the perfect guide to Cape Town, opening up the experience with her personal anecdotes of day to day life in the area. Laura is also actively involved in community projects that aid local children.

Marissa in Buenos Aires. Marissa is a unique one-woman operation in BA, and has organized tailor-made tours in and around the city for the past 12 years. “When you spend a day with Marisa in the fabulous city of Buenos Aires, you become Argentinian!!” ~~ John @ Wittravel

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Filed under News, Tour Guides

Viking River Cruises: Exclusive Offer

Last week, Willamette Intl Travel office hosted a lovely evening with Viking River Cruises. We were so pumped by our partnership that we’ve once again teamed up with Viking for an exclusive offer!

Call us and book a cabin on a Viking ship and receive $100 per cabin onboard credit!

This offer expires Thursday, April 30. So be sure to call your WIT agent for more details or to confirm your space on a sailing. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

Calling to inquire about Russia? Last August our agent Nancy went on Viking’s Waterways of the Tsars (read about it here). Call her up for a chat about this unique and colorful country. Russia bookings can be cancelled for any reason up to date of departure, and any payments made will be reimbursed in the form of future credit with Viking.

Viking offers many excellent cruises all over the world on dozens of rivers in Europe and Asia. Cruise down the scenic Saone and Rhone rivers in France for a taste of wine country and lavender-strewn Provence. A few years ago, our agent Pam sailed with Viking on the Yangtze River. (Read more about her journey here.) Join their 13-day sailing and explore bustling Shanghai, historical Xian, and the beautiful Three Gorges. Looking for a unique destination? Viking even sails through Myanmar along the verdant Irrawaddy River. Visit this timeless country and its waterside villages, ornate pagodas, and iridescent Inle Lake.

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Filed under Cruises, SALES, Travel by Ship, Viking Cruises