The charm of Old Quebec City never gets old. 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.
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.
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.
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 a very imaginative menu.
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 especially during the Carnaval de Québec (the annual Winter Carnival runs from late January to the middle of February).
In the summer, there’s the Festival d’été de Québec in July, 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.
If you are a skier or snowboarder, there are at least 5 reasons for a ski trip to Europe. The Alps have a special mix of landscapes, style, glamour and après ski. And when you add the world-class ski terrain in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and France, it can’t be beat!
A European Ski Vacation blends skiing or snowboarding with the culture, history and alpine views only available in Europe. It’s a unique alpine experience – thermal baths for après ski relaxation; Italian cappuccino in Italy (after skiing in from Switzerland); drinking beer in Munich after skiing all day on nearby mountains. A European ski vacation is the perfect blend of travel experience and incredible skiing!
Here’s 5 reasons for a ski trip to Europe:
Why not? If you haven’t been to Europe, you have to go (ski season or any season). Almost everything is different – time zone, language, food, and money, electrical outlets too. And now add the ski specific differences in Europe – over 4,000 ski areas; huge terrain; great snow; efficient lift systems and super long top of the mountain to bottom of the valley runs.
When To Go?
Generally speaking, most ski areas in Europe open at the end of November and close later in April, with some exceptions.
January tends to hold the best deals for European ski resorts and is less busy than peak holiday times. Most resorts have fewer visitors and are more peaceful. Fewer skiers on the slopes means shorter lift lines! Prices are much higher at peak times such as Christmas and New Year, and during school holidays around Christmas, Easter, and particularly with the now popular February Reading Week.
If you are going on your ski/snowboard holiday during late March-April (with longer and nicer days), you’ll greatly reduce the risk of poor skiing conditions by skiing at a higher altitude resort. Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France; Zermatt, Switzerland; Cervinia, Italy all come to mind. Zugspitze, near Munich, is a glacier and is skiable from early autumn until late spring. It has the highest elevation (2,100m) and is the most snow guaranteed mountain in Bavaria.
Where To Stay?
There’s a wide range of places to stay from traditional Alpine chalets and guest rooms; to charming historic hotels; to fully equipped apartments. Deluxe and moderate accommodations are available at or near most ski resorts in Europe. Austria and Italy are known in particular for their great hospitality and value. If you’re after luxury, there’s no shortage of first-class trips with transportation, boutique hotels and inclusive experiences! A few top Europe luxury ski areas include Gstaad, Switzerland; Courchevel, France; and St. Anton, Austria.
Modern ski resorts, (purpose-built ski resorts) are of course built specifically for skiers and boarders. Purpose-built ski resorts are situated at higher elevations and have more consistent snow conditions. They offer ski in/ski out and true slope side lodging. The list of resorts includes the well known Val D’isère, and many other less known like Peyragudes, France (in the Pyrenees), St Johann, (Tyrol, Austria) and Geilo (Norway).
Historic Alpine villages provide both true alpine ambiance and the quintessential Europe experience along with skiing. Walk cobblestone streets; eat delicious local cuisine and stay in centuries old chalets. The nearby slopes are typically a short shuttle, train or cable-car ride away. Think Kitzbühel, Austria; Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy; and St. Moritz, Switzerland.
What To Do? (When You Are Not Skiing)
Many European resorts offer a combination of spas, boutiques, bars, restaurants and other off-mountain activities. Cities near resorts offer city shopping, dining and sightseeing—perfect for a day away from the slopes. As an 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 up to the slopes. Munich is the 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 Munich beer and it’s beer halls by night!
Ski Terrain, Passes and Guides
Europe is home to literally 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 both France and Italy and let’s you ski and snowboard across actual country borders (and have a French pastry or Italian cappuccino).
A local ski guide is a very worthwhile extra. An experienced local can take you through little known ski terrain, keep you safe and will have local knowledge on lunch spots and après ski parties. A ski guide in Europe packs a ton of value and can go for as little as 200 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 Vienna, Frankfurt or Amsterdam, rich in history and culture. Europe ski vacation anyone?
Among the many things that Paris is famous for, its collection of museums is second to none. There are over 50 museums and noteworthy monuments in and around Paris. There are of course many very well known ones including the Musee du Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Picasso and monuments including the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Chathedral, Chateau de Versailles and more.
One of Paris’ greatest jewels, and often overlooked sites, is Sainte-Chapelle. As you walk down Boulevard du Palais, you’ll see a line of people that appear to be waiting to enter the Palais de Justice (a large building from 1868 that still functions as a court house). Behind the entrance and in the courtyard is what they are actually waiting for – the entrance to Sainte-Chapelle. (Unlike some other museum sites, your Paris Museum Pass does not get you queue-cutting access here).
Sainte-Chapelle is a royal medieval Gothic chapel dating back to the 1200s and Louis the IX of France. Although damaged during the French Revolution, Sainte-Chapelle contains one of the most extensive and beautiful collections of stained glass anywhere in the world. As you enter the chapel, you’ll see a small sample of stained glass and a gift shop. Look for the stairs on either side of the room to ascend a very narrow staircase to the second floor and you’ll enter the main room. You will be awestruck. It is absolutely spectacular and breathtaking !
I’ve been to Ireland 5 times (so far) and I’m starting to feel like a local in Dublin. I have the good fortune to have some great Irish friends so going to Dublin is not a typical tourist experience. It’s almost like a homecoming. I’m picked up at the airport and driven around town like visiting royalty. The trip is mostly planned out with pub nights (almost every night), dinners and visits to local, worthwhile venues. It’s great fun and provides a very local perspective.
As a local, you DON’T go to Temple Bar (“it’s too damn expensive”); you don’t go to the Guinness Storehouse Tour (“I already worship Guinness- every night”); you don’t limit your shopping to Grafton Street (“stay north of the Liffey with fewer tourists”).
As a local, you DO go to your “local” (the pub in your neighborhood where you know almost everyone who walks in the door); you do have your regular shops (like the Bretzel Bakery where they know you and your order as you walk in); you do order multiple drinks at last call (because the barman can’t leave or kick you out before you are done).
As a tourist, you should go and see the Book of Kells, Christchurch Cathedral (the basement is spooky), and the Kilmainham Gaol Tour (Old Dublin Jail from the 1800s). Entrance to all museums, including the National Gallery, the National Museum of Ireland and Trinity’s Douglas Hyde Gallery, is free. In Dublin, you’ll notice a lot of taxis – there are in fact more taxis in Dublin than in New York City! Dublin is a great town with lots to see, lots to do and lots of great people.
Whatever you do, don’t call an Irishman (or woman) “British” (the Republic of Ireland is not part of the U.K.). And don’t stop for the weather, i.e. rain. It’s either about to rain or will rain sometime later in the day. Bring rain gear, a wool sweater and enjoy. It’s all part of Ireland. And being in Dublin like a local.
The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in just 2 weeks. So what do you see. And where do you start? Well right here.
THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – GETTING THERE
Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!
THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – VENICE
Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Making our way along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and get into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But do yourself a favour and take the time to get off the main paths and explore!
THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – PROSECCO
We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit but look for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters); Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).
THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – TUSCANY
There are so very many reasons why you should include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. You can start with a glass of Tuscan wine; then move onto the fresh and delicious food; then admire the views; and last but not least enjoy the people. Classico Chianti wine (noted by the black rooster on the bottle neck) is exceptional. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion covers an area of approximate 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah,Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Villa San Andrea is among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines). This small winery is a neighbour to the famous Antinori winery. For 10 Euro, Villa San Andrea provides an intimate winery tour and tasting. Their Super Tuscan is far less expensive than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.
Within Tuscany, there many towns to visit including Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and Florence. San Gimignano stands near the top for me. It’s a very well preserved medieval village with shops, museums, sevral small hotels and restaurants. “Le Vecchie Mura” is one of the top restaurants in town and a personal favourite. It is divided in 2 parts- an inside restaurant and across the laneway is an outside terrace (weather dependent). Authentic dishes feature deer, rabbit, wild board and of course pasta, steak, and local wine. Enjoying a long meal here overlooking Tuscany is something special.
ITALY ROAD TRIP – AMALFI COAST
The rugged coast and the views are worth the trip to the Amalfi Coast. And driving there adds to the anticipation. Heading south along the highway through Naples, we make our way through Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants right on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle- both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. Staying in Positano, you can easily make day trips down the Amalfi to small towns like Ravello, Minori, Furore and others.
We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?
Traveling to another country is always exciting! Not only do you get to taste the region’s food, have fun at their festivals and meet local people, but you also get to learn more about the culture. Cultures across Europe differ greatly, particularly from North America. Many countries speak their own language and foster their own traditions that date back centuries. This is especially true of the beautiful ancient country of Italy.
One of the most impressive cultural centers of Europe, Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some of the world’s most loved food. Millions of people visit the country every year, exploring its wonderful cities, towns, and villages. So to prepare you, here’s ten things you should know before you go:
1. BE PREPARED TO SPEND TIME TALKING ABOUT AND EATING FOOD
Food is in the make up of Italians. Not only do they love to cook and eat it, more than most people, they also love to talk about it. In Italy, it is certainly more about the quality of the food than it is about the quantity; they value flavor and home-cooked traditions. In Italy they make time to cook a meal and there is no excuse for not spending time enjoying it. Meals, even in the middle of the day, can last hours and include neighbors and friends for a truly special experience. Enjoy this magical foodie culture by eating with locals or in local restaurants.
2. GET READY TO EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS
Visitors who can’t speak the language often think that Italians argue all the time. They always appear to be so expressive and loud. However, their gestures and actions are often not what you think. Most Italians love to talk about their emotions, and so the conversation is most likely a way of resolving an issue – talking it out – rather than arguing about it. Very therapeutic!
3. FOOD IS FRESH AND USUALLY LOCAL
Most large grocers and almost all of the local stores you will come across in Italy will sell mostly fresh, local produce. Not only will it be organic and high-quality, but it will also be affordable. While you can find some processed food, it is not common in the Italian diet in the way that it is in the U.S. Expect to find fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season alongside local butchers and bakeries.
4. EXPECT TO HEAR THE TRUTH
Italians prefer not to hide their feelings. In the same way that they prefer to talk about a problem they also prefer to express how they feel about people, good or bad, to their face. This is a great thing on some levels as it means they rarely talk about people behind their back. Bit it can also mean hearing the truth (even when you don’t want to). Most often visitors will hear that they should be eating more, especially the slim visitors!
5. DON’T RUSH
Italians rarely rush. They live a slow, relaxed lifestyle that really does make them happier. There is no rushing to get to work or rushing to serve people when they are at work. Expect to wait longer, but expect the people you meet to be extremely happy! What would you rather be?
6. YOU CAN SPOT THEIR IMPECCABLE DRESS SENSE
Italy has always exported some of the world’s greatest fashions – with a clear edge over the rest of the world. As you explore the country’s stunning cities and even smaller towns you will notice that style is a very important part of life. Most Italians will always make an impressive effort to look great. If you want a piece of the action head to the shopping capitals of Milan and Rome, where you can find all of Italy’s most famous designers on offer.
7. YOU WILL OFTEN SEE ROMANCE BLOOMING
Not only is Italy a romantic country for visitors, with its ancient buildings, cobbled streets and exceptional food, Italy is also inherently romantic. Most Italians value courting and spend time and effort wining and dining “the one” for months. For ancient romance visit Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s timeless play Romeo and Juliet.
8. YOU MAY FEEL A LITTLE CLAUSTROPHOBIC
Italians are very affectionate and do not worry as much as Americans about personal space. Their towns and cities are more compact, with winding alleys and petite plazas that are the places of parties and restaurants. Expect to touch a few people a day and don’t expect to hear a “sorry”; it’s not worth it as it happens all the time. Don’t even worry about it!
9. YOU CAN’T LEAVE WITHOUT AN APERITIVO
No other country in Europe truly celebrates the aperitivo (the afternoon drink and snack) like Italy does. Try to get into a place at around 6pm to take full advantage of the evening buffet and be ready for a late night dinner, Italian style.
10. FORGET ABOUT ICE
It may be common to include ice in almost every drink in the U.S. but this is simply not the Italian way. Ice isn’t always served in cold drinks, and if you do want some you will probably only get one or two cubes, not a whole glassful… Think of the positives, you are certainly getting more of the drink you ordered – the Italian way!
ENJOYING ITALIAN CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
Use our helpful list of 10 Things to Know When Traveling in Italy to get a better understanding of what to expect during your next vacation. Blend in, and get local insider info about the best off-the-beaten path attractions, restaurants, and hidden gems, when you show respect and understanding to Italian customs and traditions.
If you are visiting Las Vegas, it’s all about the experience you can’t find anywhere else. Between the world-class dining, gambling, and special performances, Vegas delivers. But there are also attractions that not only provide a fun time for the whole family, but offer some cultural enrichment, as well.
As a crossroads between California and the rest of America, Las Vegas has built an amazing collection of museums that offer a glimpse of bygone Americana and other areas of curiosity.
Here are five of the best specialty museums Las Vegas has to offer:
1. Visiting Las Vegas – Pinball Hall of Fame
You don’t have to be a “pinball wizard” to enjoy a trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame. It’s 10,000 square feet of lights, bells, sirens, bumpers, and balls was established as a way for the Las Vegas Pinball Collector’s Club to show off their wide collection of machines.
While most of the machines are from the 1970s and 1980s, the oldest models date back
decades farther, while the newest machines are from the 1990s and feature themes that
younger generations be familiar with. If you’re a pinball buff, you’ll find hours of enjoyment at this museum.
2. Visiting Las Vegas – The Mob Museum
If your movie collection features names like DeNiro and Pacino, then The Mob Museum is for you. Built as a time capsule of organized crime and the brave G-men who worked tirelessly to take down gangsters, The Mob Museum offers a rare look into the seedy underbelly of an American criminal institution: the Mafia. You’ll explore exhibits that follow the mafia from its Sicilian roots to Las Vegas itself, with all of the juxtaposition of glamour and gore that has kept Hollywood and movie audiences everywhere enamored with the with tales of the mob. Static and interactive exhibits abound, giving you an up-close look at the lives of gangsters.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to try out the display guns. For that, you’ll need to visit Machine Guns Vegas, where you can try out popular law enforcement firearms and real machine guns on their highly safe Las Vegas shooting range. For fans of The Godfather, it’s an offer not to refuse.
3. Visiting Las Vegas – Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum
At 11,000 sq.ft. and already reportedly haunted, this museum is a perfect fit for Zak Bagans’ collection of the paranormal. As the collection has grown, so have the reports of strange apparitions and occurrences. One of the most famous pieces in the collection is the Dybbukbox, a haunted wine cabinet with a storied past that was the inspiration for the movie The Possession.
If you’re frightened of things that inexplicably go bump in the night, this museum may not be for you. However, if you can’t resist the thrill of rubbing shoulders with the alleged supernatural, The Haunted Museum may make you leave believing that ghosts are indeed real.
4. Visiting Las Vegas – National Atomic Testing Museum
Relive prepping for the Cold War with a trip to the National Atomic Testing Museum. An affiliate of the Smithsonian, this museum contains relics of the burgeoning atomic age, some of which come directly from the nearby Nevada Test Site for military weapons.
Features include inactive nuclear weapons, geiger counters, pop culture materials from the 1950s to present that are associated with nuclear war, and a simulated nuclear test that lets you experience a virtual version of an atmospheric nuclear test. Of all the museums on the list, it’s safe to say this one will be a blast.
5. Visiting Las Vegas – King’s Ransom Museum
Las Vegas is known for entertainment, and there has never been a modern music star bigger than The King. If you’re an Elvis Presley aficionado, be sure to put the King’s Ransom Museum on your to-do list. Packed with the Presley’s own property, you’ll see clothes, cars, and accessories that are instantly recognizable from his movies, performances, and public life.
This multi-million dollar exhibit may not be Graceland, but it’s the next best thing. It’s a great way to honor and remember the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Elvis played 636 sold-out shows at the International and Las Vegas Hilton from 1969-1976. A museum to his rock-and-roll majesty was definitely in order.
Meet the Author:
Jordan McDowell is a writer, aficionado of American culture, and second amendment rights advocate. As a proponent of responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting, American history, and the latest developments in state and federal firearms legislation.