• Man taking a picture of Machu Picchu, Peru

    What's in my bag?

    <p><b>What’s in my Bag: Edward’s Travel [sleigh] bells and whistles</b></p> <p>I recently had the privilege of speaking with AP Travel Editor Beth Harpaz for an article she was drafting. She was curious to know what my favorite travel accessories were this holiday season—both what I carry in my own bag and some things I might recommend as gifts. My recommendations have been shared alongside other travel fanatics, but, in the spirit of the season, I wanted to share them with you too, along with those that didn’t make the cut.</p> <p><b>My personal carry-on musts:</b></p> <p><b>Victorinox suitcase</b> – This is my go-to travel bag. The key with them is that they have very good, durable zippers that don’t tear when the bags are stuffed during long trips.<br><br><a href="https://www.victorinox.com/us/en" target="_blank"><img alt="Victorinox Luggage" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9it" style="height: 437px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>Nike Free shoes</b> – They’re really lightweight, very comfortable and when they get wet they dry very quickly. My favorite places I’ve worn them include hiking to see the giant land <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagosfamily/" target="_blank">tortoises in the Galapagos</a>, visiting with tobacco farmers in the Viñales Valley in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a>, and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/morocco/" target="_blank">riding camels in Morocco</a>.<br><br><a href="https://www.nike.com/" target="_blank"><img alt="Nike Shoes" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9iy" style="height: 274px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>Swim trunks</b> – I live in La Jolla and so can usually jump into the ocean after a day at work any time of the year. It’s very cathartic and makes for a great transition from work to leisure time. I try to do the same thing when I am traveling any time I arrive at a location with a pool, lake, sea or ocean.</p> <p><b>Travel journal</b> – My wife gave me a great one. It’s leather bound with a silhouette of my dog on the cover. You can sketch a view, write down good book or restaurant recommendations, and keep track of confirmation numbers and people you meet. I know in this age of personal electronic devices it seems like an anachronism, but devices don’t always work, or can be culturally insensitive to produce sometimes.</p> <p><b>iPhone </b>– Mine is a 4S loaded with travel apps and a good data plan. It has all of my contacts, a camera, iTunes, compass, flashlight, alarm, currency converter and photo album with copies of my travel docs and passport.  It really is indispensable.</p> <p><b>iPad</b> – For all of the reasons above, but bigger – so I can watch movies, comfortably read books, and work.</p> <p><b>Headphone splitter</b> – Two people can watch the same thing on a computer, iPad or iPod and only drain the battery on one item.</p> <p><b>Gifts for travelers:</b></p> <p>Since we are coming up on the holidays, I put myself into shopping mode for my wife, who like me, travels for work with Classic Journeys scouting new regions, and also with our two teenage sons. She once made it through a four week trip to Paris-Provence-Kenya-Tanzania-London with a roller board, a lot of khaki and black in her wardrobe, and a wide variety of scarves. My gifts for her would be received with a discerning eye.<br><br><b>Pashmina</b> – My wife received one as a birthday gift from our country manager in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/peru/" target="_blank">Peru</a>, and she brings it with her everywhere; it’s made of alpaca so it’s incredibly soft, large enough to be a blanket on the airplane, and also looks great with a variety of outfits when she goes out at night.<br><br><a href="https://www.overstock.com/Clothing-Shoes/Reversible-Paisley-Pashmina-Shawl-Wrap-Elegant-Colors-72-x-27/12042387/product.html" target="_blank"><img alt="Pashmina" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9j3" style="height: 500px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>Wine Skin</b> – When you’re going to a wine producing region like <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/" target="_blank">Tuscany</a> or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence/" target="_blank">Provence</a>, it’s a shame not to be able to bring back any wine just because of TSA regulations or because you do not want to buy enough bottles to ship back a case. The wine skin lies very flat in your luggage on your way out, and lets you safely carry back a bottle of your favorite Super Tuscan, Bordeaux, or <i>limoncello</i> on the way home.</p> <p><b>Custom, highly visible luggage tags</b> – So many bags look identical nowadays that you want yours to stand out. So sites like zazzle.com will let you choose from dozens of tags with great travel themes, from a London telephone booth to a Cinquecento car, vintage airplanes to road signs from around the world. It’s very practical and costs only about $10 per tag.</p> <p><b>High Sierra zipable daypack suitcase for kids and teens</b> – My sons, ages 16 and 14, have each had one for over ten years. It’s a carry on that has a detachable daypack, and it’s been all the boys have needed for luggage for trips to 25 and 24 countries, respectively. </p> <p><b>Gorillapod stand for iPhone</b> – The iPhone does not have a receptacle for a normal tripod. So a stand like the gorillapod is fantastic, because it secures your iPhone and also can grab on to or stand on anything, from a tree branch in a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costarica/" target="_blank">Costa Rican jungle</a> to a cliff-side terrace in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank">Amalfi.</a> And if you combine it with a timer app, like Camera Timer or TimerCam (both free on the app store) you can take some great selfies in spectacular settings.<br><br><a href="https://joby.com/us-en/handypod-mobile-jb01560-bww/" target="_blank"><img alt="Phone Tripod" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9j8" style="height: 500px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p>_______________________________________________________________________________________________</p> <p>For more information about Classic Journeys, go to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">www.classicjourneys.com</a> or call 1-800-200-3887 to speak with a Guest Services Coordinator.</p>

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  • Bellagion, Italian Lakes, Italy

    "My review of the Italian Lakes Tour."

    <p>Did you ever get home from a trip bubbling over with the urge to tell everybody about it? Our guest Bill Carter did, and we’re thrilled that he shared his official Italian Lake District Tour Review with us. Instead of using our words to describe Orta, Lake Como, Lugano and the rest, let me turn it over to Bill with special thanks to him for sharing his enthusiasm!</p> <p>– Edward Piegza, President and Founder</p> <p>Edward,</p> <p>I thought I would send you a note to tell you what a great time we had on our Italian Lake Region tour with Classic Journeys. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say it was incredible.</p> <p>We have come to fully enjoy and appreciate Classic Journeys’ singular approach to walking tours with this being most of the group’s third tour with your company. We like the small, intimate groups rather than lots of people….excellent accommodations and food, wonderful sights and events and outstanding guides. So, when you offered to put together a trip for our traveling group, we jumped at it.<br><br><img alt="Italian Lakes" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nT&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002q7w" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Although the entire Lake Region tour was wonderful, there were a few things that made it spectacular.</p> <p>1. <b>Orta</b> – Although the visit to all four lakes were great and inspiring, Bellagio and Orta were the best…but Orta is a gem and one we would not have found on our own. The real lake region…. no tourists, no Hermes, no Louis Vuitton, no side shows…. just beauty, history, art and culture around every corner… a real treasure.</p> <p>2. <b>The local guides</b> – Whether arranged by Giampiero or Classic Journeys, they were truly outstanding… Bellagio, Lugano, Orta. We had two other guides that had to come from the enterprises we were visiting and the difference was so obvious. Our guides were so much better, so much more conversant, spontaneous, knowledgeable, sensitive, friendly and positive. They made us feel a part of their “home”, showed us things mere tourists never saw, things we would have totally missed, e.g. the little church with the “Last Supper”.</p> <p>3. <b>The latitude that Giampiero had with his budget</b> to do special things for and with the group….it is a winner!! Giampiero had flexibility with his budget and could consequently surprise us with treats and special events specifically tailored to the group. We were lucky enough to be in Bellagio on the day of their local, old style boat races and Giampiero had us meet (I am sure by no accident) the Bellagio two-man crew and then arranged a private boat for us to have front row seats and a glass of wine on the lake at the race. We totally got into it… hooting and yelling and cheering the Bellagio team to an “Italian” victory – a description the group will understand.</p> <p>4. <b>And the best was Giampiero</b>….. The best guide in all of Italy if not Europe. He challenged, in the best way, our minds and our bodies every day. He felt the pace of the group and every individual and catered to our needs and wants. We never lacked for interesting things and entertainment and he made us feel so at home in every way. He is 5-star and an absolute winner for Classic Journeys. His enthusiasm and energy are so catching.<br><br><img alt="Giampiero" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7nT&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002q7r" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It was a great trip and we will probably start planning another with you. Please thank Priscila for helping us put it all together.</p> <p>Bill Carter</p> <p><i>Our 7-day/6-night <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italianlakes/" target="_blank">Italian Lake District tour</a> includes visits to Bellagio on the banks of Lake Como, Mont Bre overlooking Lake Lugano in Switzerland, Lake Orta, and more. </i></p>

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  • View of Wachao Valley, Austria

    Between Prague and Budapest: A Walk in the Wachau

    <p>With all due respect to the capitals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we have become even bigger fans of the Wachau Valley. Yes, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Prague walking tour">Prague</a> is unforgettable: cobblestoned streets, all those statue-lined bridges leaping over the Vltava River. Under its historic skin, the vibe is cool and culturally hip. Budapest? It felt to us like a favorite-old-sweater of a city—graceful and grand, with great neighborhood cafes and arm-in-arm promenades along the Danube at dusk.</p> <p>And then there’s Dürnstein, nestled deep in the Wachau. Population: 450. So small you couldn’t get lost if you tried. The skyline consists of exactly one powder-blue steeple. It sits so close to the banks of the Danube that we wondered about the town planners’ wisdom. Then we learned it’s been here since at least 1192 when Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner in the ruined castle above the town.</p> <p>If he could have jumped ransom, and gone out for a vineyard walk, Richard would have had a memorable experience a lot like the one we had on our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank" title="Walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest">walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest</a> with Martin, the local Classic Journeys guide since 1999. “The terraces are truly ancient,” he explained—no surprise given the rustic jumble of rock that holds them in place. The vineyards are narrow ribbons, practically stacked on top of each other. Martin passes through so often that the workers know him, and they greeted us very warmly as we wandered through tiny villages and the yards of old farmhouses. “This is how a Dürnsteiner sees the world,” he said. “The Wachau Valley is so big, but the grower only sees his few meters of vines.”<br><br><img alt="Wachau vineyards" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7ng&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qCX" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>It’s a fascinating insight. Microclimates affect the vineyards so that the same grape grown at different altitudes yields very different wines. We tasted the proof at a traditional <i>Heuriger</i>, a sort of in-home café where the grower can serve only his own bottles. He laid out local cheeses and sausages to show off his most recent year’s wine. Oh, did he watch us closely as we swished and sipped the Riesling and Grüner veltliner. But we had no trouble giving him a thumbs up and a big “<i>Ja</i>!” Later, Martin told us that for guests who taste these wines for the first time, it’s one of the big surprises of the week that they are so complex, refreshing—and not sweet. We gladly agreed.</p> <p>The day wound down with a glorious ferry ride on the Danube. Because it’s the river that influences every bit of local life and culture, it was a fitting way to circle back to our convent-turned-luxury-hotel. (You can only wonder what those long-ago Sisters would have thought of the fine swimming pool in the garden.) Soon enough, it was time to head for Hungary. But what a relaxing treat it was to have been Dürnsteiners for a couple of days.</p> <p>____________________________________________________________________________________________<br>For more information on Classic Journeys 8-day walking tour of Austria, Prague and Budapest, visit <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">www.classicjourneys.com/prague </a>or call 1-800-200-3887 to speak with a Guest Services Coordinator.</p> <p>To further whet your palate for travel to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, check out the following related posts:<br>• <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/a-walking-tour-to-top-your-czech-list/" target="_blank">A Walking Tour to Top Your Czech List</a><br>• <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/say-chess-key-kroom-loff/" target="_blank">Say “CHESS-Key KROOM-Loff”</a></p>

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