New Zealand Uncovered

 By: Wanda Leas and Collette Vacations

New Zealand is my favorite place in the world. I love to see the wonder in the eyes of those travelers seeing its beauty for the first time. Putting on my tour manager cap, I’d love to show this place to you. Pretend we’re there.

New Zealand is comprised of three major islands. The North Island is more industrial; the South Island is more agricultural; and Stewart Island is more protected due to the large populations of Kiwi, the national bird.

Auckland is a city with countless sights to see: the American Cup Village, Maritime Museum, some art galleries, and the Sky Tower among them. An extinct volcano blends with the landscape here – Mt. Eden.

The Bay of Islands is where the country began; touring Paihia and Waitangi Treaty grounds, you’ll learn how the country got its start. Waitangi is where Captain James Cook and Chiefs of the local Maori tribes signed the Waitangi Treaty, in 1840 blending the two cultures of the British Crown and Maori together. The Treaty is the linchpin of race relations in New Zealand today.

As you set sail for the South Pacific, keep your eyes open for seals, Orca whales, and dolphins playing by our boat. Arriving in the township of Russell, we’ll discover a tranquil place with a romantic setting. Russell wasn’t always this calm; in fact, it was once known as “the hell hole of the Pacific,” as in 1835 it became a magnet for convicts, whalers and drunken sailors.

Our tour moves on to Rotorua, home to mineral springs and many spas. Our scenery shifts, becoming filled with lovely rolling hills and historic, extinct volcanoes. A highlight for many is our visit with a Kiwi family for the night. Travelers love the opportunity to learn all about the culture and daily life of New Zealanders over a warm, homemade dinner.

Until 1865, Auckland was New Zealand’s capital city. Now Wellington holds the title – and much beauty to go with it. Aptly called the San Francisco of the South Pacific, the city is hilly and also windy. Huka Falls is where you’ll find nature at its best, with water that’s clear and turquoise.

Leaving the North Island behind – beauty surrounds and overpowers. Crossing Cook Strait, we enter the South Island. On a clear day, the water sparkles like diamonds dancing on waves. Enter Christchurch – the most English city in New Zealand. A wine tasting is a great way to start our adventure on the South Island. From Blenheim, most of the trek for the day will take us along the South Pacific Ocean.

The next morning, climb aboard the Tranz Alpine Train to ride across the Canterbury Plains, some of the most beautiful farmland in the country. Our train winds up into the Southern Alps, where sheep stations flourish, and pristine rivers of glacier runoff flow through the mountains. The beautiful turquoise of the water against the golden hills and white-capped peaks offers an awe-inspiring sight.

Queenstown welcomes you – the city known as New Zealand’s outdoor adventure capital. If jet boating, paragliding, parasailing or bungee jumping inspires the adventurer inside you, take advantage of the activities offered here. There’s plenty of beauty to entertain those who want to stay grounded, as well. The Queenstown Gardens are lovely; boutique-browsing is a must and there are galleries to check out. The Safari of the Rings is an excellent way to see the surrounding area, including the Remarkable Mountains – where much of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was filmed. The TSS Earnslaw and Walter Peak Farm is a pleasurable way to cruise on Lake Wakatipu. “Middle Earth” comes to life here.

Milford Sound, a breathtaking fjord and a World Heritage Site, is a must-see for anyone visiting New Zealand. Travel around Lake Wakatipu, through farmland, sheep and deer country, stopping for tea on the banks of Lake Te Anau.

Venture through beech forest, stopping at Mirror Lake where I always get this great feeling of wonder at its majestic beauty. Our group walks into a rainforest to take pictures of a hidden secret – the Chasm.

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at about 12,000 feet. Our journey to Mount Cook takes us through fruit orchards and vineyard country – where we stop and enjoy a sample.

And the adventures just continue. This tour has the best of New Zealand: Auckland, Bay of Islands, Tongariro National Park, Wellington, the Franz Josef Glacier Region, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt. Cook, Christchurch… and so much more. Extinct volcanoes, famous mountain chains that set Academy Award winning scenes, fjords, wildlife, turquoise waters, romantic islands… this is New Zealand.

When it is time to go home, you have so much more than you came with – new friends and many fond memories of an adventure you will never forget. Many people are concerned about the long flight to New Zealand but the only concern you’ll have when its time to leave is how soon it’ll be before you can return.

Contact R and B International Travel and discover New Zealand Uncovered.

Wanda Leas, one of our seasoned Tour Managers, has been a Tour Manager for 25 years. She leads tours to New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and throughout the USA, has traveled to 28 countries and lived in 25 of them with the USN. She wants to take you on a virtual tour of some of her favorite parts of New Zealand!


France Uncovered

By: Gregory Hall and Collette Vacations

There is a reason France is the most visited country in the world. See for yourself why… you won’t be disappointed.

Paris. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a visit to Paris will leave you speechless. The city of lights and love, she is also the capital of the country largely considered to be the philosophical cradle of the Enlightenment. Paris is not only to be savored in the springtime, but summer, fall and winter as well. A quick ride in a Parisian cab or on the Métro will bring you to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacré Cœur, the Seine River’s famous left bank, the Hôtel des Invalides where Napoleon is entombed, the Galleries Lafayette or Printemps (or other famous Parisian shops) … the list goes on and on.

The dining: cafés, brasseries, and restaurants offer everything from basic fare to exquisite gastronomy – in the fancier restaurants, it would seem the chef moonlights as a poet, adding to the charm of the experience.

Normandy. Famous for its cider, Calvados brandy, and cheese, to most North Americans, it is better known for the pivotal moment in history that saw the Allied forces break through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to open the Western Front in WWII. My first visit to Normandy started at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. I remember watching the early morning fog rise revealing perfectly arranged Carrara marble headstones shone like white beacons over the beaches the men they commemorate had helped liberate. I later learned why those grave markers are so white: one of the cemetery’s French custodians takes the time to paint all 9,387 of them each year. The whole area around the landing beaches is a living memorial to those valiant soldiers.

The Loire Valley. Cradle of the French monarchy for centuries, this part of France is where the magnificent chateaux of France can be visited. Chenonceau, once seized by King Henry II, was given to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After his death, Henry’s wife, Catherine de Medici, had Diane expelled and maneuvered a way to finally call Chenonceau her own. Astonished visitors marvel at the gardens, and this summer party house of royals and nobles, built over the river Cher. Not to be outdone, the chateau in Amboise is also a sight to see, with its secret underground passage. Built by Francis I, the passage connects Amboise to the Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo Da Vinci, who had been invited by the king to France and notably brought with him a painting of a certain smiling lady that now resides in the Louvre.

Provence. The inspiration of artists like Cézanne and Picasso. Many artists and actors have frequented Provence, renowned for the way its striking sunlight bathes its perched villages in a warm glow, the fragrant fields of lavender that blush a purple radiance in mid-summer, the olive groves and their related oil and tapenade, and the easy-going nature of its residents, many of whom gather to play long, relaxing games of pétanque under the shade of plane trees. The Mistral wind blows here, necessitating that many of its church towers be built with open wrought-iron campanile, as well as the planting of cypress hedgerows to protect crops and vineyards.

The French Riviera. This breathtaking area opens up France’s Côte d’Azur, where the rich and famous have been coming since the late 19th century for its Mediterranean climate, movie and music festivals, and Europe’s oldest principality in Monaco. Stone dolmens recall this area’s Paleolithic history, and its flower fields are the raison d’être for famous perfumeries like Fragonard in Grasse. Rénoir, Matisse, Chagall, Van Gogh, and Picasso all lived here, along with royalty from around Europe, and who can forget the fairytale marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainer III.

Contact R and B International Travel and discover France Uncovered.

Gregory Hall, one of our seasoned Tour Managers, a citizen of France, who speaks fluent English, French and German, grew up in West Berlin, Germany, and now lives in Michigan. He spends much of his time guiding tours through Europe – and wants to take you on a virtual tour of some of his favorite parts of France!

Learn Why Shakespeare’s Globe Theater took 50 years to build with Globus

By: Globus

One of the most striking sights in London is a circular wooden building in Tudor style poking above the southern bank of the River Thames – a reconstruction of William Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Opened in 1997 after exhaustive research, it today is a hugely popular shrine to the greatest playwright in the English language, where you can enjoy live performances in roughly the same setting as audiences 400 years ago, either from gallery seats around the stage or standing in the courtyard as a “groundling.” Its recreation was an improbable, 50-year saga that could be an Elizabethan comedy itself. Far from being concocted by academics, the new theater was the brainchild of a successful American actor named Sam Wanamaker, whose Hollywood roles included The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Wanamaker first visited London as a young aspiring actor in 1949, and was shocked to discover that there was no memorial to Shakespeare on the original site of the Globe Theater. In fact, the spot where many of his plays had premiered in the early 1600s was a brewery. Many years later, in 1970, Wanamaker created the Globe Theater Trust to rebuild the theater 750-feet from the original site – a dream that took decades of fundraising and bureaucratic haggling to realize. The historical research was also time-consuming. First built in 1599, the Globe was demolished in 1644 by Puritans who had banned all stage plays, and no drawings of its interior have survived. But the modern architect used etchings of another London theater, The Swan, literary references and archaeological evidence to come up with a “best guess” of the Globe’s appearance. The builders then used original materials, including “green” oak beams joined in Elizabethan fashion, lime plaster and water reed thatch for the roof. (There is one major concession to modern times: The wooden edifice is coated with a state-of-the-art fire retardant. Even before its demolition, the Globe burned down in 1613 when a spark from a stage cannon went astray during a performance of Henry VIII, and had to be rebuilt by Shakespeare’s troupe). Sadly, Wanamaker died in 1993 and never saw his beloved Globe completed, but thousands of theater-lovers every week can rejoice in his persistence.

When you book a vacation with Globus and R and B International Travel , you’re not just seeing the world, you’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at the world’s most interesting places. Discover the stories of England with Globus today.

Traveling Well to Austria

In Austria, history, breathtaking scenery and outstanding cultural offerings comprise the charming atmosphere that keeps travelers coming back. Austria resounds with music, art, architecture and history. This pristine Alpine country boasts cities like Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg, where travelers are welcomed with open arms into everything Austria is known for.

In Vienna, six centuries of Habsburg rule resonate. The city on the “Blue Danube” is graced with famous landmarks like the Imperial Palace and Schoenbrunn Palace, and monumental St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Located high in the Alps is Innsbruck, a colonnaded medieval town, famous for its Golden Roof. The bright Hofburg and the Hofkirche create lasting impressions as well. The Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg and its environs, contributing to its international renown. Majestic alpine scenery, with steeples and palaces are also parts of the backdrop, which creates a beautiful wonderland for all who visit.

Exploring the Alpine Countries

13 days
Vienna • Danube Cruise • Salzburg
Mozart Dinner Concert • Munich • Oberammergau
Innsbruck • Bavarian Castles • Black Forest • Bern
Chateau de Chillon • Zermatt • Lucerne

Discover Switzerland, Austria & Bavaria

10 days
Bern • Chateau de Chillon • Montreux • Gstaad
GoldenPass Panoramic Train • Lucerne • Interlaken
Bernese Oberland Woodcarving Museum • Grindelwald
Innsbruck • Austrian Alps • Bavaria • Oberammergau
Salzburg • Mirabell Gardens

Did You Know?

  • Did you know that the car “Porsche” was invented by an Austrian called Ferry Porsche in Austria in 1947 in Gmuend and Zell am See?
  • Did you know that the energy drink Red Bull is an Austrian product? The Red Bull inventor and owner Dietrich Mateschitz also bought the NY Metro Stars soccer team in 2006 and renamed them Red Bull New York.
  • Did you know that the seven children in the film “Sound of Music” – which is a true story of the Austrian family, the von Trapps – had different names than the real von Trapp children? The real von Trapps were Martina, Johanna, Hedwig, Werner, Maria, Agathe, and Rupert. The movie children were called Liesl (played by Charmian Carr), Friedrich (played by Nicholas Hammond), Louisa (played by Heather Menzies), Brigitta (played by Angela Cartwright), Kurt (played by Duane Chase), Marta (played by Debbie Turner), and Gretl (played by Kym Karath).
  • The ancient province of Carinthia, Austria – known for beautiful lakes, mountains and winter sports – was the site of the first organic farming system in the world. In 1927, a new generation of Austrian farmers saw the benefits of organic farming in creating a better, healthier lifestyle. Today Austria has the highest percentage of organically farmed land in Europe.
  • Did you know that one of the most well-known Christmas carols originated in Austria? On December 24, 1818, the organ at the Chapel of Oberndorf near Salzburg was out of commission and a substitute was needed. The priest Joseph Mohr and the schoolteacher Franz Xaver performed, for the first time ever, one of their own songs – “Silent Night.”

Contact R and B International Travel and travel well in Austria.

Where do I Find the “Best Price”


Helpful Hints on Cruising

 by Tim Rubacky

If there is any one subject that is the bane of every cruisers existence, this is it. So many ships, so many different deals, so many different prices. How do I know I’m getting the best price?

Finding the best price can be accomplished fairly easily with a little time and not a whole lot of effort.The best price is not always the cheapest. Don’t buy on price alone. A cheap price is not a bargain if the ship or cruise does not fit your lifestyle, interests or is simply an inferior product. Getting the BEST price means getting exactly what you want at a fair price.

First and foremost, establish a realistic outlook and budget by utilizing all of the online resources in CruiseMates such as the Bargain Finder and reading through the News and Bargains section. You should also consult the cruise line websites to see if they have any special promotions and sample pricing.

Read the Sunday Travel Section of your local newspaper or pick up a copy of a major metropolitan newspaper such as the New York Times, LA Times or Miami Herald.

Consult a knowledgeable travel agent and ask them what special promotions they have received via fax or e-mail from the cruise lines such as reduced air add ons or “regional specials” which may be offered to residents of certain states or air “gateway” cities.

If you’re a repeat cruiser with a particular line, ask about any specials they may have for repeaters and don’t throw out those past passenger mailings. Carnival, Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess and RCI typically have some tremendous savings available on select sailings which not only provide savings on the cruise price but include value added perks such as shipboard credits, free shore excursions and phenomenal upgrade opportunities.

Be flexible with your travel dates. You’d be amazed how much you can save just by moving your travel dates by one month or even one week!

Have your travel agent and the cruise lines add you to their mail, e-mail or fax specials list. You may also consider using one of the large online or 1-800 cruise only agencies. In many instances, they hold large blocks of space and pass along considerable savings. You can easily locate listings of these agencies in the CruiseMates Classifieds or in magazines such as Cruise Travel.

Try to book as early as possible to get the best combination of ship, sailing date and choice of accommodations. Ultimately, getting exactly what you want at a fair price is the best value. Many cruise lines will also offer an extra perk such as an upgrade or free pre or post cruise stay to get you to book early.

Check out the online auction sites such as and While these auction sites may offer what seems to be a great value at the outset, they can get expensive quickly, be sure to check whether port charges and air-fare are or are not included. Read the fine print. What may appear to be a bargain may not be if there are “hidden” extra charges that aren’t included in the advertised price.

Copyright © 2000 – 2003, Cruisemates. All rights reserved.

How Do I Pick a Cabin?


Helpful Hints on Cruising

 by Tim Rubacky

Let’s explore what the different types of cabins that are available, which locations are the most desireable and which locations you should avoid if possible.

TYPES OF CABINS Single: Accomodates a single person. May have a single bed or a full-size/double bed. Double: Accomodates two people. Twin beds, double bed or queen/king. Triple/Quad: Accomodates three or four. The third and fourth person may be accommodated on a sleeper sofa, a folding upper bed (like a bunk bed) or any combination thereof. Inside: a cabin with no window or view Oceanview: a cabin with an oceanview through a porthole or window. Mini-suite: A larger oceanview cabin with separate sitting and sleeping areas. Suite: Usually the best grade of accommodations with a separate bedroom/sleeping area, living area and sometimes a dining area, wet bar and lavish bathrooms.

This is a purely personal issue and mitigated by many factors such as preference, size needs, budget and of course, availability. If you don’t need a cabin with a window and wish to save the extra money, by all means, take an inside cabin. They’re an excellent value. If you’re like me, and need to see daylight or are even slightly claustrophobic, take an oceanview cabin.

Do you need a balcony or suite and are they worth the extra price. Once again, this depends on your priorities, wants and needs. A balcony is a great plus if you like to have your own (Semi) private deck space to relax without intrusion from other passengers. I don’t find them a “must” on a seven night Caribbean or Europe itinerary, but they are a nice extra.. Where I find they are really worth the extra cost is on longer itineraries and when cruising scenic regions such as Alaska, the Norwegian Fjords or the Panama Canal where prime viewing space on deck is at a premium. Balconies are a great place to enjoy morning coffee, an afternoon nap or evening cocktails as you watch your ship depart from port and once you sail with one you probably wont want to do without.

Mini-Suites and Suites will provide you with extra space, but that space comes at a price. You’ll most likely get a separate sitting area, a sleeping area or separate bedroom and many come with a much larger bathroom, whirlpool tub and walk in closets. While suites tend to be closer in size to a hotel room, check out the mini-suites with caution. Many lines mini suites are simply standard cabins with a balcony.

Choose the location of your cabin with care. Look to see what areas are above, below and adjacent to your cabins. Showlounges, Discos, kitchens/serving areas and stairtowers/elevator lobbies can be a source of noise. If you have a jogging track or deck area above, you may be disturbed in the morning by the sound of crew members dragging deck chairs about or the thump-thump of passengers out for a morning jog. You should also avoid cabins at the very front (bow) and down low to the rear (stern) of the ship as you are more likely to experience movement and machinery noise from the bow/stern thrusters, anchors or propulsion machinery. A mid ship location is always best but don’t be afraid to go forward or aft and if given the choice, go aft rather than forward. And while forward facing balconies overlooking the bow may present magnificent vistas and views, they can be quite windy. Midship balconies are the most plentiful, but if I can get an aft facing one overlooking the wake, I’d go with that.

Yet another very important factor when choosing a cabin. In many instances, you will be offered the opportunity to choose and specific cabin or a “guarantee”.

A “guarantee” is simply a guarantee by the cruise line that you will receive a cabin in the category you booked or possibly a cabin in a higher category. You may also be offered what is now referred to as a “run of ship” guarantee which means the cruise line is simply guaranteeing you space on the ship and can wind up with the lowest category or possibly a very nice and substantially upgraded accommodation.

It is very important to remember that when choosing a cabin on a “guarantee” basis you will have little to no say in what cabin you are assigned. If location is important to you, don’t take this gamble. These can result in accommodations with which you are pleasantly surprised but can also lead to extreme disappointment if you are placed in a less than desireable location.

A cabin chosen with care can make or break your cruise experience!

Copyright © 2003, Cruisemates. All rights reserved.

Top Ten Tips On Bargain Hunting


Helpful Hints on Cruising

Top Ten Tips On Bargain Hunting
by Anne Campbell

By this time, you should know that no one pays full brochure rates for a cruise – it’s like the sticker price of a car, a figure to base discounts on. And remember, a bargain’s only a bargain when you wind up cruising on a ship that fits your personal interests and lifestyle.

Never, never select a ship based on price alone, or just to save a couple of hundred dollars. Narrow your search down to one or two ships you’re sure you’ll love, then start looking for the best rates on those particular vessels. If you’re looking for a last-minute discount, be prepared to compromise on cabin location – the best staterooms go early.

Bargain hunting is also affected by luck–looking in the right place at the right time. But with the volatility of cruise prices, you can easily wind up paying a much lower price than you dreamed possible, or upgrading to a cabin you couldn’t otherwise afford.


  1. To determine whether the deals you find are true bargains, start the process by determining the basic rate the lines are charging for those cruises. The quickest way to find these prices is at the cruise line’s web site (you’ll find links to all cruise line web sites in CruiseMates’ “links” area). A few cruise lines also offer online discounts exclusive to web surfers.
  2. Don’t rely on last minute bargains, especially in cruising regions that tend to be fully booked each year during peak season, like Alaska, New England/Canada, Bermuda and Europe (unless there’s a major upheaval like the Kosovo conflict). You may actually end up in a less desirable cabin at a higher price. Your best bet is to go with the cruise lines’ advance purchase discount. While it’s a buyer’s market in the Caribbean right now, cabins are almost impossible to find during summer months, when ships are full of families.
  3. Start bargain hunting in the Sunday travel section of your hometown newspaper. Many lines offer regional bargains, so you might be entitled to a super deal aboard a wonderful ship that is not available outside your area.
  4. Find a local travel agent who specializes in selling cruises. This person may be part of a “cruise only” agency, or the cruise specialist in a full-service company. Tell your agent you’d like to be added to mailing lists and are particularly interested in bargains aboard a specific ship. Travel agency faxes run 24 hours per day receiving notices of terrific deals.
  5. Use CruiseMates’ new “I Need A Cruise” bargain finder. You simply list the ship, dates and any other pertinent data, and agents will e-mail you with their best deals.
  6. Check out CruiseMates’ “News and classified advertising areas. Also, many travel agencies with web sites offer free newsletters – sign up for several and you’ll get lists of new bargains weekly.
  7. The best way to find a terrific agent is by referral. I know several CruiseMates members so devoted to their travel agents, who give them fantastic service and great rates, that they wouldn’t switch to save $100 with another person. They found this “dream” agent on the internet by referral. While it’s true too many agents are simply order-takers, there are some experienced, outstanding pros who offer invaluable advice.
  8. Visit the internet auction sites. We’ve seen very good ships with terrific deals on their lists. One of our favorites sites is All Cruise Auction.
  9. Whether it’s a newspaper ad, newsletter or internet site, look at the small print. Does the price include port charges/taxes? If not, you must factor in this extra charge to determine your “real” price. In addition, when communicating with a travel agent, ask if they can give you a ballpark estimate of the airfare between home and the port.
  10. When traveling with children, you can save a bundle when they share your cabin. Ask your agent which cruise lines have the best rates for kids (sailing as third- or fourth-cabin mates). Cruise lines frequently offer “specials” for kids, and this can lower your cruise cost significantly.


Copyright © 2000 – 2003, Anne Campbell. All rights reserved.


60 Second Geography – Tuscany


Visitors to Tuscany for many reasons. Many come in search of fine art, others to explore the extraordinary countryside. Gourmets and wine buffs descend on Tuscany to enjoy the simple yet wonderful cuisine and wine. Walkers enjoy the mountain paths, cyclists the rolling hills, summer vacationers the sea coast and islands. Students come to learn the beautiful Italian language and culture.

There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany, the difficulty is really where to start. Certainly most should start with Florence, and continue on to Siena and Pisa (a tourist trap, but one worth the hassle). The cities of Arezzo, Cortona, San Gimignano and Lucca are all a very worthwhile use of your travel time. One of the beauties of the region is that it is dynamic and ever changing which begs one to return again and again.

  • See the Masters in Florence museums. The Uffizi Gallery is a world famous art museum. Here you can feast your eyes on hundreds of paintings by Renaissance masters. Artists include Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Then head over to the Accademia where you’ll find Michelangelo’s statue of David – one of the most famous sculptures in the world.
  • Go wine tasting in Chianti. Just about everyone has heard of Chianti wine, and now you can taste the red wine for yourself from the local vineyards in the region. Even if you’re not so keen on wine, it’s a gorgeous area to explore
  • Stroll around Siena. Siena is a well known town dating from medieval times. One of its most popular piazzas is the Piazza del Campo where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee and indulge in people watching. If you feel energetic, you can climb to the top of the bell tower for breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
  • Visit Lucca. Lucca is a Tuscan town dating from 180BC. Founded by the Romans, there’s a 1900 year old amphitheater to explore and a sixteenth century brick wall that encloses the city center. If you are looking to work up a sweat, you can walk along the 2.5 mile long brick wall.
  • Take a Tuscan cooking class. If you’d like to know how to make authentic Tuscan dishes, then why not take a cooking class in Tuscany? There are quite a few different cooking schools in the region that offer anything from one day courses to intense week long courses.
  • Count the tower houses at San Gimignano. This town is 1,000 years old and is perched on a hill. Only 14 tower houses are left standing today which were a sign of wealth in ancient times. San Gimignano features churches and museums, as well as the Fortress of Montestaffoli.
  • Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The town of Pisa is approximately 50 miles from Florence and is easily reached by train. In recent years the tower has been under renovations to shore up the lean. It is a bit of a tourist mecca, but still worth the trip.
  • Explore the Maremma region. The Maremma region is located in south-western Tuscany. This region boasts hills, mountains and the ocean. You can indulge in pleasures such as eating simple Italian food and tasting the wines of this region. Or if you feel like taking a dip, the thermal baths of Saturnia have the cure for what ails you.
  • Take an art class. Be inspired by the same landscapes as the Italian masters. Not only can you take a class in painting, but lessons in pottery, sculpture, drawing, ceramics and mosaics are also offered at the various art schools in the region.
  • Explore Cortona. If you’ve read Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, then you may be familiar with Cortona. The Etruscans first lived here centuries ago and today it’s a town that offers visitors a feast of history and art.

Ready for the food, art and wine of Tuscany? Contact R and B International Travel and get started planning your trip.

60 Second Geography – France

The largest country in Western Europe, France looms large in the mind of the traveler as well. It’s coastline takes in three seas and its interior hosts rich pastoral vineyards and the most sophisticated of urban centers. The Alps and Pyrenees for natural geographic barriers for the nation historically. French is one of the most widely spoken languages, heavily influencing the English language and culture. The French take their holiday time seriously, with more than 25 days of paid vacation time each year.
  • France’s large size and geographic diversity means that its climate is extremely varied from region to region. From the long summers and abundant sunshine of the Mediterranean coast to the temperate regions of the interior and the Atlantic to the cold winter playgrounds of the Alps, the climate in France makes for plenty of recreational opportunities year-round.
  • In both a historic context and in modern times, the impact of French culture is hard to over-state. Architecture in the middle ages was heavily influenced by French styles and early French literature gave rise to the ideals of courtly love and chivalry. Today, Paris holds sway over haute couture and haute cuisine.
  • A holiday in France can range from city visits to special interest travel in the wine country, river cruises, culinary tours and spa tourism. Tourism from North America in the World War II generation maintains a keen interest in Normandy and the sites of great battles from that war.
  • France maintains its ranking as one of the most popular destinations for inbound tourism. The completion of the Channel Tunnel enhanced the ease with with travelers could move from the United Kingdom to the continent and made Paris a hub for traveler transport for Western Europe.
  • The great museums of Paris remain some of the most popular attractions for visitors. Institutions like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay host extraordinary collections of paintings, sculptures and antiquities.
  • The Côte d’Azur cities and beaches are popular with European and Canadian tourists, and increasingly so with a resurgence of travelers from the United States. Terrace cafés, quaint streets and blue oceans attract visitors looking for the essence of the French Mediterranean life and culture.
  • The wine country of France remains one of the most popular culinary and wine vacation theme locations in the world. Hosted tours and self-drive itineraries alike are available to travelers wishing to sample the fine wines, food, scenery and the grand chateaux of the wine regions.

Are you ready to getaway to France? Contact R and B International Travel and get started.

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