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  • The Culinary Delights of the Duoro Valley: An Itinerary for History, Wine and Food Lovers

    Welcome to the charming Douro Valley, an idyllic region in Portugal that promises a sensory journey for wine and food enthusiasts. Today I'm going to take you on a virtual tour through the rolling vineyards, picturesque landscapes, and fascinating wineries of the Douro Valley. Get ready to imagine the taste of the finest wines, savor traditional cuisine, and even try your hand at a delightful cooking class. This 5-day itinerary is specially crafted for people and groups seeking an unforgettable culinary experience. Day 1: Arrival in Lisbon Arrive at your luxury accommodation in the Lisbon. Get settled in and enjoy a free afternoon. Meet in the early evening with the group for a cocktail. Day 2: Lisbon - Porto After breakfast at the hotel, spend the morning on a walking tour of Lisbon before you head out to Porto with a stop in Fatima. Board the van to for the journey to Porto. The ride is approximately 3 hours and will make a 1 hour stop at Portugal’s Holy City of Fatima. This small agricultural town owes its fame to three shepherd children who, in 1917, saw monthly visions of the Virgin Mary in the Cova da Iria pasture, the last of which brought an estimated 70,000 pilgrims. Arrive in Porto and check in to hotel and enjoy a free evening, Day 3: Porto In the morning, after breakfast, a transfer will pick you up from your hotel for the city tour of Porto with an official tour guide. In the historic city centre, considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will have plenty of time to explore Lello Bookshop, where Harry Potter books and films were inspired. You will also see São Francisco Church and, right next door, Palácio da Bolsa with incredible granite work and magnificent neo-Arabic influences (entrance not included). The tour will end with a visit and wine tasting at the famous Port Wine Cellars. While strolling through the city, you will make a few stops at typical establishments to taste some of Porto's best delicacies! A transfer will take you back to your hotel and the rest of the day is on your own. Day 4: Take a panoramic tour in Douro After breakfast and check-out at the hotel, a transfer will take you to Pinhão through Estrada Nacional 222, an amazing road that follows almost the entire course of Douro River in national territory. Upon arrival in Pinhão, a guide will show you around the small village highlighting the places to get the best views of Douro Valley. This will be followed by a traditional lunch in one of the famous wineries of Douro Valley. After lunch, you will visit the vineyards and do a wine tasting. To end the afternoon in beauty, you will take a boat trip on Douro River, where you can enjoy the breathtaking views. At the end of the day, a transfer will take you to your hotel. Day 5: Enjoy the best experiences in Douro After having breakfast at the hotel, you will have free time to relax or to do personal activities. At lunchtime, you will enjoy one of the best experiences in Douro: a picnic among the vineyards followed by a wine tasting in one of Douro's fantastic wineries. If the weather conditions don't allow the picnic to take place, lunch will be at a typical local restaurant. At the end of the day, a transfer will take you back to the hotel. Day 6: Day 5 - End of the tour All good things come to an end quickly, or do they? On the last day of your stay in Porto, you decide what to do until you go to the airport. At the agreed time, a transfer will pick you up to take you to Porto Airport. Unless you’d like to extend your stay in Porto, or anywhere else in Portugal. We customize to your needs and desires. Some ideas on extended activities Day 7: Cooking Class and Market Visit Immerse yourself in the region's gastronomy with a hands-on cooking class led by a skilled local chef. Accompany the chef to a vibrant local market, selecting fresh seasonal produce. Learn to prepare authentic Portuguese dishes and delight in a delicious lunch created by your own culinary skills. Day 8: Dining with the Locals Join the locals for lunch or dinner in their home. This dinner menu will be focusing on flavor and texture for an experience that will touch all senses. There will be served wine from a local wine shop Cave Bombarda and coffee from a selection of small roasteries in Europe. Join Chef Nikolas, who worked in hospitality for most of his life, for a special dinner hosted in a unique and intimate venue. Connect with other guests and enjoy this gourmet experience! (Maximum guests: 8) Conclusion: The Douro Valley offers travelers an exquisite blend of wine, food, and natural beauty. This 6-day itinerary (with additional options to extend) provides a perfect balance of wine tastings, gastronomic experiences, and cultural immersion. From the rolling vineyards to the hands-on cooking class, each day offers a unique opportunity to savor the richness of the Douro Valley. Whether it's the flavors of the wines, the warmth of the locals, or the breathtaking landscapes, this culinary and winery tour is sure to leave a lasting impression on your taste buds and your heart.

  • An Exquisite Wine-Tasting Journey in the Wachau Valley

    Get ready to savor a slice of paradise on a thrilling Danube river cruise. Of all the experiences to cherish, you simply cannot miss the delightful wine tastings awaiting you in Austria's gorgeous Wachau Valley – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000. This valley is not just another picturesque countryside; the Wachau is world-renowned for its mouth-watering wines and offers a wine-tasting voyage unlike any other! 🍷 As you traverse the enchanting landscapes and dramatic terraces, you'll find yourself visiting an array of family-owned wineries. These acclaimed vineyards offer you a chance to savor some of the most exclusive wines in Austria – including the exquisite Grüner Veltliner (a dry white wine grown almost exclusively in Austria) and Riesling, which boast unmatched quality and charm. Make the most of the wine-tasting tours that expertly pair the wines with local delicacies to balance and highlight the flavors. Trust us, the Bärlauchpesto and fresh Wachauer Saibling are a match made in heaven when savored with these wines! 🥂 👌 You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to truly enjoy these visits. I’m definitely not a connoisseur, but I am always trying to learn about good wine. I may be a slow learner, but what can I say, I like wine. Education meets indulgence as these tours aren't just about tasting wines but understanding their history and the art of winemaking. Our knowledgeable guides will walk you through the 2000-year-old wine history of the Wachau Valley. Lovers of natural beauty too have a feast, with the stunning terraced vineyards carefully carved into the valley over generations. There’s no other way to put it: It's a beautiful symphony of nature and culture that will leave you in awe. And oh, can we talk about the sunset over the vineyards viewed from the comfort of our river ship, a glass of local wine in hand? It's the kind of serenity that will make you want to hold on to this beautiful moment forever!🌅 Ready to step into the world of Wachau Valley wines? Gotta Luv Travel is offering a wine cruise down the Danube River which stops in this valley of delectable flavors. Contact us to book your trip, or for more details, and let us craft your perfect wine trail along the Danube. Salud! 🍇 🚢

  • The Unforgettable Moment: Chasing Dreams and Living Them

    Imagine the moment when a long-awaited dream turns into reality. The excitement courses through your veins, and anticipation fills the air. The feeling of awe that is almost too surreal to comprehend. This is the essence of traveling - the chance to witness something you've imagined and longed for, and when it finally happens, the emotional rush is indescribable. One such breathtaking experience for me is standing before the iconic masterpiece, Big Ben, in the heart of London. The Dream Awakens: For me, the owner of Gotta Luv Travel, Big Ben was more than just a renowned landmark; it was a symbol of my enthusiasm and an object of fascination of mine for several decades. I had seen countless images of the clock tower, but nothing could compare to the magic of experiencing it in person. The anticipation of finally gazing upon Big Ben awakened a flood of emotions that caught me completely off guard.. A Dream Come True: Exiting the tube station, the vibrant city unfolded around me, but my focus remained on one thing: catching a glimpse of Big Ben (honestly, my family was tired of hearing me saying the only thing I wanted to see was BB). Little did I know that the experience awaiting me would surpass even my wildest dreams. An Enchanting Encounter: The very moment we exited the tube station, Big Ben struck the hour. Goosebumps spread across my arms while a wave of emotion surged within me. Lit up in the night sky, as I looked up at Big Ben tears of joy welled up in my eyes as I realized I was living a dream I had nurtured for so long. The sound of each strike echoed, reverberating with a sense of history and significance. It was in that moment that I truly understood the power of travel and my dreams. Beyond Expectations: I had imagined the moment countless times, but the reality surpassed every expectation. Big Ben stood tall, a symbol of resilience and timeless elegance. The surrounding atmosphere carried a sense of wonder, as if paying homage to the dreams of millions who had stood before this majestic icon. I realize that Big Ben may not be a “thing” for some people, but it was one of my “things” (trust me there are many more). This is just my way of helping you see that travel isn’t just getting somewhere, it is putting all of our senses together and getting something indescribable from it. Something that will resonate with you for years to come (in my case this was 26 years ago). If you have a dream destination or sight that has held your fascination, I encourage you to pursue it with unwavering determination. The experience may leave you breathless, just as it did for me with Big Ben. The first encounter with something you've always dreamed of seeing in person is a life-altering moment. For me, the journey towards Big Ben was a testament to the power of dreams and the incredible experiences that travel can offer. The surreal feeling, the goosebumps, and the happy tears were all part of a beautiful tapestry created by my passion for exploration. Let this serve as a reminder that chasing your dreams and embracing the unknown can lead to experiences that surpass even your wildest imagination.

  • Park Güell: Prepare to Be Gaudí-fied in Barcelona's Whimsical Wonderland!

    Hey travel enthusiasts! Vicky here, ready to take you on a journey to one of Barcelona's most magical places: Park Güell. During my recent visit, I was captivated by the park's vibrant colors, intricate designs, and fascinating history. Join me as I share my unforgettable experience exploring this architectural masterpiece. As I entered Park Güell, I couldn't help but be in awe of the breathtaking landscape before me. Set amidst lush greenery and overlooking the city, the park offered a stunning panoramic view that took my breath away. Designed by the genius architect Antoni Gaudí, this UNESCO World Heritage Site (just one of the many in Barcelona) is a true testament to his visionary creativity. Walking through the park's winding paths, I discovered an eclectic mix of architectural wonders, covered in vibrant mosaics made from broken ceramic tiles - a technique known as trencadís. Gaudí's use of organic shapes and forms is evident in every structure, leaving me mesmerized at every turn. From the iconic dragon-like fountain to the whimsical gingerbread-like houses, Park Güell felt like stepping into a fairytale land. One of the most fascinating aspects of Park Güell is its origin. Commissioned by Count Eusebi Güell, a wealthy entrepreneur and Gaudí's patron, the park was initially intended to be a residential garden city. However, only two of the planned sixty houses were built, leaving the area to become a public park in 1926. Can you imagine living in a place with such architectural grandeur? At the entrance pathway of the park, you’ll notice that the pathway is lined by large round boulders. These boulders symbolize the Rosary prayer beads, a devotion closely associated with the Catholic faith. Gaudí, a deeply religious man, included these elements in his design as a personal expression of his faith. As I walked along the pathway, I couldn't help but feel a sense of tranquility and contemplation, surrounded by this beautiful representation of devotion. You will see Gaudì’s faith in everything he designed, as his creativity was deeply rooted in faith and nature. As I reached the main terrace - a mosaic wonderland overlooking the park. The serpentine bench that wraps around the terrace immediately caught my attention. Its smooth curves and psychedelic patterns made it the perfect spot to relax and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of Park Güell. Of course, Gaudí designed the bench in a serpentine design for a reason - to From the terrace, I couldn't help but admire the quintessential Barcelona skyline. The iconic Sagrada Família towered in the distance, reminding me of Barcelona's rich architectural heritage. Gaudí's influence is felt throughout the city, and Park Güell is just one piece of this grand puzzle. For those who appreciate art and nature, Park Güell is a haven waiting to be explored. The park seamlessly combines the whimsical essence of Gaudí's imagination with the tranquility of nature. From the colorful gardens bursting with Mediterranean flora to the tree-lined pathways that invite leisurely strolls, every moment spent here is a feast for the senses. As my visit in Park Güell drew to a close, I couldn't help but feel a sense of wonder and inspiration. The way Gaudí seamlessly integrated art, architecture, and nature was truly groundbreaking. It reminded me of the boundless possibilities of human creativity. If you're planning a trip to Barcelona, Park Güell is an absolute must-visit. Immerse yourself in the world of Gaudí, unlock your imagination, and discover the extraordinary beauty that awaits you in this whimsical paradise. Well, that's all for now, fellow travelers! Stay tuned for more exciting travel tales and tips from Gotta Luv Travel, LLC. Happy exploring!

  • Passau - Discover this overlooked river city!

    It's easy to imagine the Danube passing through Vienna or Budapest. But, what about the forgotten places along the river like Passau, Germany? Passau is absolutely charming. It’s the kind of town that adds flavor to your travels and fills in cultural gaps that large cities can’t. So, don’t forget Passau! Passau is considered one of the oldest cities in Bavaria. It’s been inhabited by Celts and was an important Roman town for 400 years. So, you know it’s got history. The city is also famous for sitting at the confluence of three rivers, the Danube, Ilz and Inn. This natural beauty makes the city an ideal point for river cruises. And it rightly gives Passau its nickname, “City of Three Rivers.” Must-see: the Largest Organ in Europe A visit to Passau isn’t complete without seeing St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Located on a lovely square in the city’s old town, you can’t miss the building’s white facade and turquoise domed towers. Inside the cathedral, you’ll find beautiful frescoes, ornate columns and Europe’s largest cathedral organ. With over 17,000 pipes the organ is an unexpected gem. Take a Soothing Stroll It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local, walking Passau’s Innpromenade is a relaxing experience. This walkway follows the river Inn and is the perfect place to stroll, have an ice cream or just sit along its banks. For a real treat, follow the promenade to the confluence of the three rivers. Here you can see the unique colors of each river as they meet. The distinct colors of green, blue and black blend into each as they flow to become one river, the Danube. Wonderful View of a Wonderful City Founded in 1219, Veste Oberhaus is a fortification that sits on a hillside above Passau. This historical building holds a museum, restaurant and theater. However, the view of the rivers and the city below are unbeatable. You can either walk up or take a bus to avoid the steep climb. For added romance, go in the evening as the city starts to light up. Stairway to Heaven Passau includes a memorable religious pilgrimage church, Mariahilf. This impressive Baroque monastery was built in the 17th century and is dedicated to Saint Mary. Visitors are welcome to walk up the 321 covered steps on their way to the top. Fortunately, the scenic view and the church’s atmosphere are well worth the journey. Eat Like a Local Passau offers plenty of dining options. And, in good German tradition, there are many quality beer gardens in the city. And, for a full Bavarian experience, eat something local and traditional. In Passau, you’ll find an assortment of traditional restaurants serving wurst (sausage) and schnitzel. These are German staples that you simply must try. Discovering destinations along the Danube like Passau is what makes traveling so fulfilling. This quaint city’s sights, deep history, and river access make the perfect combination. I am ready when you are. Let's schedule a quick meeting to discuss what's on your bucket list - and how we can make it happen.

  • Sorrento, Italy: Unleashing the Charms of This Coastal Gem

    Welcome to the enchanting seaside town of Sorrento, Italy! Perched atop dramatic cliffs overlooking the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sorrento captures the essence of la dolce vita. If you find yourself on a cruise ship docking in this picturesque port for a day, get ready to immerse yourself in a world of captivating landscapes, rich history, and mouthwatering cuisine. In this blog post, we'll unveil a few must-see attractions and experiences that will help you make the most of your time in Sorrento. Explore the Charming Historic Center: Step into the heart of Sorrento, where narrow cobblestone streets lead you on a delightful journey through the town's historic center. Admire the colorful buildings adorned with flowers and traditional ceramic decorations, and meander through the vibrant Piazza Tasso. Immerse yourself in the bustling energy of the square, adorned with charming cafes, boutique shops, and street performers. Take a moment to savor a delicious gelato from one of the local gelaterias, a perfect treat for strolling through this enchanting area. As you soak up the atmosphere, lift your gaze towards the horizon and witness the mesmerizing panoramic views of the Bay of Naples. The stunning vista encompasses the majestic Mount Vesuvius, the picturesque Positano coastline, and the azure Mediterranean Sea. Capture this awe-inspiring beauty with your camera, ensuring this moment remains etched in your memory forever. Delight in the Flavors of Limoncello: Sorrento is famous for its exquisite limoncello, a sweet and tangy liqueur made from local lemons. As you traverse the lemon-scented streets of Sorrento, make sure to visit the famous Lemon Grove, Limoneto di Sorrento. Immerse yourself in the aromatic citrus paradise that stretches as far as the eye can see. Stroll along the pathways adorned with lemon trees, their vibrant yellow fruits dangling temptingly overhead. Engage your taste buds with refreshing lemon granita, a local specialty, or indulge in a sip of the famous limoncello liqueur, made from these very lemons. The Lemon Grove is a sensory delight, gifting you an experience that is both delectable and fragrant. Explore the Breathtaking Amalfi Coast: If time permits, don't miss the opportunity to embark on an unforgettable excursion along the legendary Amalfi Coast. This stunning stretch of coastline, with its dramatic cliffs and charming villages, is a feast for the eyes. Take in the panoramic vistas as you wind your way along the coastal roads, stopping at scenic viewpoints like Positano and Amalfi. From exploring charming streets lined with boutique shops to savoring fresh seafood dishes, the Amalfi Coast promises a day filled with beauty and relaxation. Conclusion: Sorrento, with its captivating beauty, tantalizing flavors, and proximity to the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, offers a day filled with unforgettable adventures. Whether you're wandering through the charming historic center, indulging in the local specialty of limoncello, or exploring the stunning landscapes of the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento will leave you yearning for more. As you step off your cruise ship (or out of your car), let Sorrento's warmth and charm envelop you, and allow yourself to be swept away by the magic of this coastal gem. With limited time, choose wisely and make the most of your day in Sorrento. Embrace the beauty, indulge your senses, and savor every moment in this Italian paradise. We hope these suggestions have sparked your wanderlust and provided you with a taste of the incredible experiences awaiting you in Sorrento. So, grab your camera, an appetite for adventure, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime!

  • Florence, Italy: Where History, Art, and Pizza Collide!

    Welcome to the captivating city of Florence, Italy! Nestled in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is a dream destination for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and food lovers alike. Prepare to be enchanted as you wander through its charming cobblestone streets and discover a world of architectural marvels, Renaissance masterpieces, and mouthwatering culinary delights. In this blog, we'll tantalize your senses with three must-see sights, experiences, and mouthwatering treats that will leave you craving more of the Florence magic! Gazing in Awe at Michelangelo's David: In the Accademia Gallery, a masterpiece awaits that will leave you speechless - Michelangelo's David. Marvel at the incredible craftsmanship as you stand before this towering statue, meticulously sculpted from a single block of Carrara marble. The level of detail and the sheer size of David are simply awe-inspiring. Prepare to be transported to a time when art reached unparalleled heights, and let David's gaze captivate your imagination. I can tell you from experience, the best time to visit is late in the day. Not as crowded, and the photo-opts are much better. Getting Lost in the Streets of the Historic Center: Venture into the heart of Florence, where historic streets like Via dei Calzaiuoli and Via della Vigna Nuova will transport you back in time. Lose yourself in the intricate labyrinth of alleys and discover hidden gems at every turn. From vibrant markets to quaint boutiques, there's something to capture your interest at every corner. Take a moment to savor the lively atmosphere and soak in the essence of Florentine life. Devouring Authentic Florentine Pizza at Gusta Pizza: Ready to tantalize your taste buds? Look no further than Gusta Pizza - a small, unassuming pizzeria that serves up some of the best pizza in town. Don't be fooled by its humble appearance; the magic lies in the perfect blend of fresh ingredients, thin crust, and a coal-fired oven that creates a symphony of flavors. Take a cheesy, mouthwatering bite, and prepare to be transported to pizza heaven. Just be warned, one slice is never enough! Climbing the Duomo for a Bird's-Eye View: Get your cameras ready as we ascend the Duomo, Florence's iconic cathedral. Brace yourself for a climb of over four hundred steps, but trust us, the panoramic view from the top is worth every single one of them! The breathtaking landscapes of the city, the rolling hills of Tuscany, and the famous red roofs stretch out as far as the eye can see. It's the perfect opportunity to capture that Instagram-worthy shot and make all your friends jealous! Conclusion: Florence, with its rich history, incredible art, and irresistible cuisine, is a city that will forever hold a special place in your heart. Whether you're in awe of Michelangelo's David, wandering through the enchanting streets of the historic center, savoring the flavors of Gusta Pizza or capturing the beauty of the Duomo from above, Florence promises an experience that will leave you craving more. So, pack your bags, polish your sense of adventure, and get ready to fall head over heels for this extraordinary city! We hope these three alluring highlights have piqued your interest and left you yearning for more of Florence's wonders. Stay tuned for more insider tips, hidden gems, and must-visit destinations from Gotta Luv Travel, your trusted companion on unforgettable adventures. Happy travels and buon appetito!

  • Unraveling the Wonder of the Eternal City

    Rome wasn't built in a day, but you sure can see a lot in a day. This is simply a highlight of the top 3 things to see/experience in Rome in a day! Rome, the eternal city, stands proudly as one of the most iconic destinations in the world. With its rich history, breathtaking architecture, and delectable cuisine, it's no wonder that Rome has become a sanctuary for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and food lovers alike. In this blog post, we'll guide you through a sample itinerary that will help you create an epic Rome bucket list and make the most of your time in this mesmerizing city. Marvel at the Colosseum: No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Colosseum. This grand amphitheater, dating back to AD 70-80, is a testament to the power and glory of the Roman Empire. Stand in awe as you step inside and imagine the roaring crowds and gladiatorial battles that once took place within its walls. Explore the Vatican City: Prepare to be wowed as you step foot in the smallest independent state in the world, the Vatican City. Home to the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican Museums, and the awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel, this holy enclave is a treasure trove of art, history, and spirituality. Toss a Coin in the Trevi Fountain: Make a wish and throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that this act ensures your return to Rome. This stunning Baroque masterpiece is a symbol of luck, love, and eternal beauty, and is a must-visit spot for capturing that perfect travel photo. Indulge in Authentic Italian Cuisine: Rome is a paradise for food lovers, and no visit would be complete without savoring the city's culinary delights. Treat yourself to a mouthwatering plate of pasta carbonara, sample crispy Roman-style pizza, and indulge in refreshing gelato. Let your taste buds embark on a journey that will leave you craving more. Conclusion: Rome, with its charm, history, and culinary wonders, continues to captivate travelers from around the globe. From iconic landmarks like the Colosseum and Vatican City to hidden gems like the Roman Forum and Trevi Fountain, this city offers a never-ending list of experiences that will leave you in awe. So, start crafting your epic Rome bucket list and embark on a journey that promises to be truly unforgettable. We hope this sample itinerary has inspired you to explore the wonders of the eternal city. Stay tuned for more travel tips, insider secrets, and must-visit destinations from Gotta Luv Travel, your ultimate guide to unforgettable adventures. ATTENTION Cruisers: Ask me how to best utilize your time in Rome when arriving in Civitavecchia.

  • The Majestic Notre Dame Cathedral: A Historic Jewel in the Heart of Paris

    Step into the beating heart of Paris, and you'll find the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral radiating its storied history and captivating architecture. Towering over the cityscape, this eminent landmark stands as a symbol of France's incredible architectural and cultural legacy. Let's embark on a virtual journey, unraveling the fascinating story of Notre Dame and the allure that makes it a must-visit destination. The Allure of Notre-Dame: As you approach this grand cathedral, the majestic Gothic spires reaching toward the sky capture your attention. This masterpiece of French Gothic architecture earned its fame through intricate details, including daunting gargoyles, sculpted portals portraying biblical events, and mesmerizing Rose windows boasting intricate stained-glass designs. Imagine the sunlight streaming through these vibrant windows, illuminating the cathedral's interior with a spectrum of colors, creating an ethereal atmosphere that leaves you breathless. Notre Dame doesn't just offer visual splendors; it has countless tales to tell. Upon entering the cathedral, the spellbinding sound of one of the largest organs in France fills the air, adding to the surreal ambiance. Imagine the captivating melodies connecting you to centuries of history, drawing you deeper into the magic of Notre Dame. The History of Notre-Dame: The cornerstone of Notre Dame was laid in 1163, and it took nearly 200 years to complete. Originally built as a Roman Catholic cathedral, this architectural masterpiece was crafted with a specific purpose in mind - to serve as a place of worship and spiritual inspiration for the people of Paris. The cathedral has survived wars, revolutions, and natural elements, becoming more robust and more captivating than ever. It has witnessed countless religious ceremonies, including coronations, weddings, and funerals of historical figures. One of the key historical events at Notre Dame took place in 1804 when Napoleon I was crowned Emperor of France, a moment forever etched in French history. Beyond its religious significance, the cathedral has also played a central role in French culture and history. Today, it continues to be a symbol of national and artistic heritage, welcoming visitors from around the world to marvel at its grandeur and to appreciate the profound sense of sacredness and beauty for which it stands. Despite the devastating fire in 2019 causing significant damage, Notre Dame's spirit remains undimmed. The current renovations give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the transformation of this historic jewel, returning it to its original splendor. Why Visit Notre-Dame: While the cathedral is currently closed for reconstruction, visitors can still stroll around the vicinity, contemplate its magnificence from the outside, and explore the nearby archaeological crypt. This underground museum displays ruins dating back to the Roman period, providing insights into the city's history. Visiting Notre Dame isn't only about admiring its grandeur; it's about immersing yourself in centuries of history, artistic masterpieces, and extraordinary craftsmanship. It's about feeling the pulse of Paris, heart-moving moments enhanced by the cathedral's grandeur. Every visit to Paris may be complete but not without witnessing the remarkable Notre Dame Cathedral. It stands as both a historic testament to the past and a beacon of unwavering resilience and hope. As the cathedral undergoes restoration to regain its former glory, now is the perfect time to start planning your visit. Discover the landmark that lies at the very core of the City of Light, a sight that will undoubtedly stir your soul and leave you enchanted. Contact for more information about a visit to Paris, or a river cruise on the Seine.

  • La Sagrada Familia: A Timeless Masterpiece in Barcelona

    Barcelona is a city renowned for its exceptional architecture and numerous iconic landmarks, yet nothing captivates the imagination like La Sagrada Familia. This magnificent basilica, a masterpiece designed by the legendary architect Antoni Gaudí, continues to captivate visitors from around the world with its sheer grandeur and unique blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles. A Brief History: Contrary to popular belief, La Sagrada Familia's origins lay not solely in the brilliant mind of Antoni Gaudí. While it is true that Gaudí's transformative vision forever changed the course of the basilica's construction, the groundwork for this architectural wonder was laid by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1882. Gaudí's extraordinary involvement elevated La Sagrada Familia to unprecedented heights, becoming his life's ultimate masterpiece. Tragically, Gaudí's untimely demise in 1926 left the basilica in an unfinished state, yet over a century later, the construction presses on toward completion by 2026. This unfinished edifice stands as a testament to unyielding dedication and a shining symbol of unwavering devotion to the art of architecture. Uniqueness and Architectural Marvel: What sets La Sagrada Familia apart from other religious structures is its unconventional design and intricate details. Gaudí's vision was to create a harmonious blend of nature and spirituality. As you approach the basilica, you'll be mesmerized by the facades depicting different aspects of Christ's life, adorned with exquisitely sculpted figures. Each facade has its own distinct style, showcasing Gaudí's artistic genius. For hours you can stand and look up at the high steeples, and continue to see something new, something unique, something mysterious. We chose (and recommend) to visit in the evening. Walking into the Sagrada Familia was like hearing the Angels sing. The interior of La Sagrada Familia is awe-inspiring. As natural light floods in through intricately designed stained glass windows, it casts a kaleidoscope of colors across the columns inside resembling a forest of trees, with branches spreading out to support the towering ceilings. Gazing up, visitors are filled with a sense of wonder, as if standing in a sacred natural cathedral. Best Time to Visit: To fully appreciate the magnificence of La Sagrada Familia, timing your visit is essential. The basilica attracts millions of visitors each year, so it's best to plan your visit during the quieter seasons, such as spring or fall. Additionally, arriving early in the morning or in the evening as the sun is setting allows for a more serene experience, as the basilica is less crowded. Embrace the opportunity to explore at your own pace and take in the intricate details without feeling rushed. What to Look for When You Visit: ` While everything about La Sagrada Familia is worth admiring, there are a few highlights you shouldn't miss. Start by marveling at the Nativity Façade, which depicts the birth of Jesus and is the only facade completed during Gaudí's lifetime. Study the intricate sculptures and detailed craftsmanship, each telling a unique story. As mentioned above, inside, let your gaze wander to the mesmerizing stained glass windows. They are strategically placed to flood the space with different shades of light, creating an enchanting atmosphere. Take a moment to appreciate the play of colors and the emotions they evoke. Finally, visit the museum located inside the basilica to learn more about the history and construction of La Sagrada Familia. Gain insight into Gaudí's creative process and witness the evolution of the project through detailed models and photographs. Conclusion: La Sagrada Familia stands as a testament to both human ingenuity and unwavering dedication. Dedication not only by Gaudi during his lifetime, but by those who have endlessly continued this masterpiece. A visit to this architectural marvel is an experience that will leave an indelible mark on your soul. Whether you're an admirer of art, history, or spirituality, the beauty and grandeur of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona will undoubtedly leave you in awe. Don't miss the chance to witness this timeless masterpiece that continues to evolve and inspire generations.

  • Discover the Enchanting Douro River: A Cruise Experience Beyond Expectations

    Welcome to the beautiful Douro River, flowing through the heart of Portugal, where a captivating cruise awaits. Set against a backdrop of terraced vineyards, charming villages, and historic sites, a journey along the Douro brings extraordinary experiences that go beyond the ordinary. Today we'll embark on a virtual expedition, exploring the highlights of a Douro River cruise and the allure of possibly spending a few extra days in Porto, Portugal's vibrant coastal city. The Douro River Cruise Experience: As you embark on your river cruise ship, you'll leisurely sail down the Douro, immersing yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and tranquil ambiance of Portugal's countryside. As you navigate the river's gentle currents (yes, that is why it is so different from an ocean cruise), you'll be treated to stunning vistas of terraced vineyards, where the famous port wine grapes are cultivated. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur or even a wine drinker for this unique setting to set the stage for a truly unforgettable experience. One extraordinary feature of a Douro River cruise is the opportunity to visit wine estates along the way. Here, you can partake in private vineyard tours, engage in wine tastings where you'll savor the rich flavors of the region's famous port wine, and possibly even participate in grape stomping! (yep, just like Lucy and Ethel if you know what I mean). This hands-on activity offers a unique insight into the traditional winemaking process, allowing you to immerse yourself in the culture and heritage of the Douro Valley. Another extraordinary highlight of this cruise is the chance to explore the charming and lesser-known villages that line the riverbanks. Step ashore and wander through winding streets adorned with colorful houses and picturesque squares. Discover hidden treasures like the Pinhão railway station, decorated with beautiful blue and white tiles, or visit the delightful town of Lamego, known for its stunning baroque sanctuary, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies. These off-the-beaten-path experiences provide a glimpse into the authentic local lifestyle and offer a welcome respite from typical tourist attractions. Extra Days in Porto, Portugal: Either before or after your cruise, why not extend your adventure and spend a couple of extra days in Porto? This vibrant coastal city offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and culinary delights. Explore the atmospheric Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its narrow cobbled streets and colorful buildings lining the riverfront. Cross the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge and marvel at the stunning views of the Douro River. Indulge in a port wine tasting at one of the numerous cellars dotting the riverside, delving into the rich flavors that have shaped the region's identity. Venture into Porto's historic center and visit the illustrious Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, famous for its stunning art nouveau architecture. Soak in the charm of Sao Bento Railway Station, adorned with hand-painted azulejo tiles depicting scenes from Portugal's history. Don't miss the opportunity to savor the city's exceptional cuisine. Porto is renowned for its seafood, so be sure to sample fresh grilled sardines or indulge in a hearty serving of bacalhau, Portugal's beloved salted codfish dish. Pair your meals with a glass of the region's renowned vinho verde, a young and refreshing white wine. Conclusion: A Douro River cruise promises an enchanting journey through Portugal's stunning landscapes and cultural heritage. With unique experiences such as grape stomping and visits to charming villages, this cruise offers a tapestry of memories beyond the ordinary. Add a few extra days in Porto, and you'll discover another layer of Portuguese charm that will leave you yearning for more. Embrace the allure of the Douro River and embark on an unforgettable adventure in Portugal. Contact to learn more about the Duoro River and many other river cruises.

  • Up Your Game with a Unique Pickleball Adventure: Europe 2024 River Cruise!

    Are you a pickleball enthusiast looking to add some extra spin to your love of this fast-growing sport? What if we were to combine that passion with a unique cultural experience across the heart of Europe? Prepare for a serve that's hard to return as we introduce you to the 2024 Pickleball River Cruise, traversing the charming territories of Budapest, Vienna, and Bratislava! Budapest - The Heart of Pickleball: Your European pickleball quest starts in Budapest, fondly referred to as the 'Heart of Europe'. Here, you'll have the honor of playing at a stunning private residence, complete with five full-size pickleball courts, situated near the serene waters of Lake Balaton. It's not all about the gameplay, though. After stimulating matches under the Hungarian sun, unwind with the hospitable locals at a traditional palinka party. Savor an authentic Hungarian meal and share your pickleball experiences over rounds of this soul-warming fruit brandy. Vienna - A Symphony of Sport and Culture: Next, we navigate the rippling waters of the Danube, heading towards the grandeur of Vienna. Engage in friendly yet competitive pickleball matches against both amateurs and pros alike amidst Vienna's picturesque landscapes. When the final point is scored, indulge in delicious Austrian pastries or simply relax to the timeless tunes of Mozart and Beethoven in this 'City of Music'. Bratislava – The Pickleball under the Castle: Finally, the journey cruises on to Bratislava, the charming Slovak capital. As the ancient towers of Bratislava Castle form an impressive backdrop, join the locals to enjoy some riveting pickleball action. What better way to absorb the city's vibrant energy and its evolving pickleball culture! The Tale Continues Down Danube River: That's not game, set, match just yet! Beyond pickleball, let your cultural curiosity guide you, as we make our way down the mighty Danube. Discover the allure of the picturesque towns of Dürnstein, Aschach, Emmersdorf, and Linz. Each offers unique slices of Europe, from quaint traditional markets and hilltop vineyards to Baroque architecture and delicious regional cuisine, enriching your journey beyond pickleball. The final port of call is Regensburg, Germany, known for its preserved medieval architecture, ancient stone bridges, and a historic cathedral housing centuries-old stained-glass windows. Enjoy a final round of European hospitality before disembarking in Passau, carrying with you a chest of unforgettable experiences. Wrap Up: Our 2024 Pickleball River Cruise isn't just about showcasing your skills in different cities. It goes beyond, allowing you to connect with like-minded people, embracing the European culture, and of course, pickling against dreamy backdrops. So, pack your bags, bring along your paddle, and let's embark on this unique journey that marries sport and culture so beautifully! After all, pickleball isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle! Contact Vicky@GottaLuvTravel for more information on pickleball and/or river cruises.

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