5 Reasons For A Ski Trip To Europe!

The glitz, glamour and après ski of the Alps is calling. And some of the great ski destinations of the world are calling – Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, and more.Rossütte mit Blick auf Seefeld- copyright Olympiaregion SeefeldOlympiaregion Seefeld

A European Ski Vacation is as much about experiencing culture, history and alpine scenery as it is about skiing. The full European alpine experience is hard to beat – après ski thermal baths to soothe sore muscles; Italian cappuccino in Italy (after skiing in from Switzerland); drinking beer in Munich after a day of skiing on nearby mountains. A European ski vacation offers a unique experience on another continent with different cultures —and world class skiing!

Here’s 5 points to ponder if you are thinking it’s time for a ski trip to Europe:

  1. Why Europe?

Why not? If you haven’t been to Europe, you have to go (ski season or any season). Almost everything is different – language, cuisine, money, electrical outlets, time zone. And now add the ski specific differences in Europe – over 4,000 ski areas; huge terrain; great snow; incredible lift systems and super long top-to-bottom runs.

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  1. When To Go?

Generally speaking, most mountains in Europe open at the end of November and close mid to late April, with a few exceptions.

January tends to hold the best deals for European ski resorts and is less busy than peak holiday times. Most resorts are quiet and more peaceful. Fewer skiers on the slopes means that there are of course shorter lift lines! Prices can be almost double at peak times such as Christmas and New Year, and during the school holidays of Christmas, Easter, and particularly February Reading Week.

If you are going on your skiing holiday during late March-April (with longer and sunnier days), you’ll greatly reduce the risk of poor skiing conditions by skiing at a resort with a higher altitude. Val Thorens, France; Zermatt, Switzerland; Livigno, Italy all fit the bill. As a glacier, Zugspitze is skiable from early autumn until late spring, the highest (2,100m) and most snow-sure mountain in Bavaria, and just 90km from Munich.

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  1. Where To Stay?

Choices for accommodation range from traditional Alpine chalets and guestrooms in charming historic hotels to fully equipped apartments. Deluxe and moderate accommodations are available at most ski resorts in Europe. Austria and Italy are known in particular for their great value. If you’re after luxury, there’s no shortage of first-class transportation, five-star boutique hotels and world-class experiences! A few top Europe luxury ski resorts include Courchevel, France; St. Moritz, Switzerland and Cortina,Italy.

Modern ski resorts, (purpose-built ski resorts) are of course perfect for skiers and boarders. Purpose-built ski resorts are situated at higher elevations and have consistent snow conditions. They offer ski in, ski out and true slope side lodging. Think Val D’isère, and Les Trois Vallées, France.

Historic Alpine villages provide both true alpine ambiance and the quintessential Europe experience with skiing. Walk cobblestone streets; eat traditional local cuisine and stay in centuries old chalets. The nearby slopes are typically a short shuttle, train or cable-car ride away. Think Zermatt, Switzerland; Chamonix, France; and St. Anton, Austria.

  1. What To Do? (When You Are Not Skiing)

Many European resorts offer spas, boutiques, bars, restaurants and other off-mountain activities. Resorts near major cities offer city shopping, dining and sightseeing—perfect for a day away from the slopes. For example, skiers in Seefeld, Austria can take a quick 20 minute train ride down the mountain to Innsbruck. Or do it in reverse- stay in the city and travel to the slopes. Munich can be a perfect springboard to the nearby mountains of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Nearby Wallberg or Alpspitze are great options too. You can ride all day, and then enjoy the city of Munich by night.

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  1. Ski Terrain, Passes and Guides

Europe is home to thousands of miles of groomed and off-piste terrain, and several resorts are interconnected by lifts and trails. A multi-resort ski pass like the Dolomiti Superski Pass offers 700 miles of Italian Alpine terrain spread over a dozen resorts. The world’s largest ski area, Les Trois Vallees in France, includes Meribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens and 5 more resorts. The Milky Way Ski Area straddles France and Italy and offers the opportunity to ski across actual country borders (and have a croissant in France or espresso in Italy).

A local ski guide is also worth your consideration. An experienced local can take you through little known ski terrain and has the inside scoop on lunch spots for locals and après parties. A ski guide in Europe packs a ton of value and can go for as little as 250 euros per day.

And at the end of your European ski holiday, you can still have more Europe! Add on a trip extension to an iconic city like Paris, Berlin and Rome, rich in history and culture. Europe anyone?

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The Charm of Old Quebec City

I’ve been to Quebec City a few times. The first time as a youngster on a driving vacation with the family. The first overnight stop from Toronto was Quebec City. I remember walking through the gates of the old city and feeling like I had stepped back in time. Thankfully the old city is still there today. And it’s a real treat.

Old Quebec is the only walled city in Canada or the U.S. and is designated as a World Heritage treasure by UNESCO. It’s a mix of history, architecture, heritage, art, and culture and is widely viewed as the home of French civilization in North America.

Early Canadian and French history abounds with numerous historic buildings and museums including the Musée de la civilisation . There are many art galleries and boutiques with a French flair. Restaurants and pubs have a warm and intimate feel and most feature Quebec fare including rabbit, deer, and duck confit poutine.

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While there’s a variety of hotels to choose from within Old Quebec and Quebec City itself, my favorite is the Auberge Saint-Antoine. Located in the heart of Old Quebec, the Auberge sits on an historic site dating back to the 16oos. As a member of Relais and Cheataux, the hotel has a strong focus on service and luxury. There are only 60 rooms with no 2 rooms alike, and each contains artifacts that were found on site. Their Panache Restaurant is incredible with Michelin star chef and imaginative menu.

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Quebec City is like 2 different destinations in the winter and the summer. In the winter, it can hit -30c. So cold it’s painful but beyond beautiful particularly during the Carnaval de Québec (the Winter Carnival from January 27 to February 12, 2017).

In the summer, there’s the Festival d’été de Québec (July 7-17, 2016), Canada’s biggest outdoor music event. Quebec City is warm and inviting with quaint streets to wonder down and walking trails to explore along the St.Lawrence River. Outdoor cafes abound and you’ll find yourself stepping back in time… and thinking about your next visit.

Florence Unpacked: Make the Most of Your Time in Tuscany

 

The small and beautiful city of Florence is the beating heart of Italian culture. Known as the location of the birth of the Renaissance, the city is shrouded in ancient history and art, with a range of famous sculptures, masterpieces and prolific architecture at every turn.

Close to the beautiful Appennine Mountains in the stunning rural region of Tuscany, the region’s capital is a city for the senses. Enjoy delicious local cuisine, history walks and marvellous museums in this magical cityscape.

Florence Sightseeing Tips

Enjoy free Florence. Many of Florence’s top sights can be seen for free from the ground. Make sure you spend your first day in the city soaking up the sights around the station, including the Medici Chapels, San Lorenzo, and the must-see Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Not only this, but the city’s many bustling outdoor piazzas can be accessed without a ticket and are an integral part of Florentine culture.

Get a Firenze card. The Firenze card costs around 70 euros and gives you access to most of the museums in the city, free local bus rides, and allows you to skip the queues – so you can see more in less time. The ticket is valid for 72 hours and includes one of the world’s greatest museums, the Uffizi, as well as the Pitti Palace, the Accademia, and the Bargello.

Shop locally. Florence is known for its shopping, like so many Italian cities, but some of the best shopping can be done at the local flea markets, such as San Lorenzo, delle Pulci, and the Mercato Nuovo.

Attractions in Florence

Florence is known for its rich history, which dates back as far as the Roman times. But the pinnacle of its history really came when the Medici family took the reigns which encouraged the cultural movement of the Renaissance from the 14th to the 17th century. The rebirth has remained one of the most famed cultural progressions in modern history, and its writers, painters, philosophers, and architects are still recognized in the city today. So much of its history can be felt and reimagined in its buildings, both in its world famous museums and on its streets through the incredible architecture, piazzas and sculptures that define the city and its past.

Be sure to check out these must-see sights during your time in Florence:

Uffizi Gallery

It may be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence, but you cannot visit Florence without seeing it at least once. One of the most famous museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery has one of the best collections of Italian paintings in the world, including some pretty giant Botticellis.

Il Duomo di Firenze

Enjoy the best views of Duomo Square and the stunning cityscape that surrounds it by climbing to the top of the Duomo Dome. Designed by Brunelleschi, the dome is enormous and involves climbing a winding staircase to reach the top.

Visit the City’s Famous Tombs

So many of Florence’s greats are buried in the city itself, from Machiavelli to Michelangelo, and not to mention the Medici Chapel, which is a masterpiece in itself. Be sure to visit these impressive tombs on your way around the city.

Explore the Markets

Florence has several markets that are worth visiting, but some of the most famous are the leather markets. Take a trip to the market next to San Lorenzo Church and visit the large indoor Mercato Centrale afterwards.

Piazza della Signoria

At the heart of the city’s historic center, you will no doubt enjoy the views from the large Piazza della Signoria a number of times, just make sure you stop to appreciate impressive town hall with its majestic public and private rooms that are open to visitors while you are here.

Shopping in Florence, Italy

The city may be small and easy to walk around, but the vast array of shops and boutiques is endless. Whether you want souvenirs, fashion pieces, or antiques Florence has it.

Via Tornabouoni

Most of the high end luxury fashion brands and designers can be found on Via Tornabouoni. Establishing itself as early as the 14th century, here you can find Gucci, Prada and Cartier among many of others in gorgeous boutiques that are just oozing style.

Via Maggio and Via de’ Fossi

If you like to shop for antiques then head to Via Maggio, close to the Pitti Palace, and Via de’ Fossi. Look hard enough and you can find valuable art, sculptures and collectors’ items.

Florentine Leather Shopping

The markets are the place to go if you want to buy some good quality Florentine leather. San Lorenzo outdoor market is probably the most famous, and sells everything from leather jackets to leather purses. It’s also possible to bargain with some of the sellers for a better deal!

Ponte Vecchio

For window shopping and jewelry shopping head to the famous Ponte Vecchio. Along the bridge you will find some of the most glamorous jewelry shops in the city, perfect for finding something completely unique to take home with you or for someone special.

Street Food and Drink

Florence, like the rest of Italy, is famed for its delicious food and drink, and so many markets offer local and fresh Italian produce to take home or eat there and then. Head to Sant’ Ambrogio Market to find fresh Italian fare and local seasonal produce.

Florence Restaurants

Like every Italian city, food is a vital part of the culture in Florence. From the local Tuscan wines to the aged cheeses and cured meats, Florence is a mecca for food and here’s some of the best of the bunch:

Giacosa Roberto Cavalli

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis cafe may be not an obvious choice, as it’s tucked away at the back of the designer store of Roberto Cavailli, but it’s certainly a pit stop to remember. Sip on some delicious coffee and tasty pastries as you experience Florentine chic at its best.

Vestri

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis famous gelato place offers some of the best in the city. Unusually, there is nothing on display so you have to make your selection from the menu – we can promise that the chocolate is always a winning choice at this quaint store.

Da Nerbone

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis small quirky restaurant in the market has just five tables but is well worth the wait. The food is simple, local and the best place to eat like a real Florentine.

Osteria de’Benci

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingThis fun and vibrant restaurant is the ideal place for some laughter and some great food, particularly the pasta and meats. Usually filled with a younger crowd, the place is sometimes so busy that they let patrons drink outside in the piazza.

Enoteca Pinchiorri

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingNot for the budget traveler, Enoteca Pinchiorri is for pure indulgence. With a wine cellar of more than 150,000 bottles, a three Michelin-stared chef and some incredible Tuscan and modern dishes, it will be a night to remember.

Il Latini

June 2016 Trip Advisor RatingBe sure to book ahead for this one, Il Latini is an institution in Florence that offers two sittings and an incredible array of food, course after course. A Tuscan treat that isn’t overpriced but may be a little overcrowded.

Hotels in Florence, Italy

The city offers a range of hotels from small self-catering rooms to large and luxurious accommodation. Stay in the center of the city and enjoy close proximity to the city’s main attractions, including the cathedral and churches.

Merdiana

3 Star HotelClose to the railway station and the motorway, the Hotel Merdiana is located in the city center with easy access to the Duomo, the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Fortezza de Basso.

Palazzo dei Ciompi

4 Star Hotel Stay in the old city of Florence at Palazzo dei Ciompi. Located in the old square, the hotel is a beautiful design and offers self-catering apartments just a few minutes walk from the historic sites of the city.

Palazzo Ruspoli

3 Star HotelStay in your very own art gallery at the Palazzo Ruspoli. This large beautiful hotel is within walking distance from most of the city center’s main attractions, and has an array of stunning sculptures and paintings inside the hotel for some true Florentine beauty.

Berchielli

4 Star Hotel Enjoy private views across the River Arno, just a few minutes away from the city’s boutique shopping district, including the famous Ponte Vecchio. The interior is modern and elegant, with a touch of serenity, making it the perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing.

Bernini Palace

5 Star HotelExperience unrivalled luxury at the five-star Bernini Palace, close to the Piazza Della Signoria and city center. This incredible hotel dates back to the start of the 16th century and  has been renovated to bring together its majestic past with decadent furnishings and features with modern amenities, such as air conditioning and a spa.