The Charm of Old Quebec City

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.

Quebec8
Quebec9
Quebec5
Quebec6

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.

Quebec4
Quebec2
Quebec1
Quebec3

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.

San Diego – The Ultimate Californian Weekend Getaway

If you’re up for some California dreamin’, there is no better place in the world than San Diego for the ultimate Californian Weekend Getaway. The city’s sunsets and surf is so laid-back that no one would ever believe it to be the nation’s 8th largest city. Still, that’s exactly what it is, and it’s everything you would expect it to be: bikinis, khaki shorts, raucous and ritzy beaches, sunny days and, of course, Legoland. If you’re planning to spend a weekend in San Diego and don’t know how to make the most of it, here are some tips that will help you.
San Diego - The Ultimate Californian Weekend Getaway

San Diego – LaJolla Shores

If you’re looking for the ultimate stretch of sand in San Diego, you must definitely visit the La Jolla shores, where you will be able to enjoy several different beaches featuring dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and sandy expanses. No matter if your interest – swimming, surfing, sunbathing or watching the adorable baby seals, you will find a beach for you. Windansea Beach is secluded and picture-perfect. Couples go to enjoy romantic scenery there, and surfers go to enjoy the waves. La Jolla Children’s Pool is not that convenient for kids (although this was its original intention), but more for families of seals. If swimming, diving and snorkeling are your hobbies, than you should head out to La Jolla Cove. Beautiful and isolated, Black’s Beach is ideal if you want to get a nudist experience.

San Diego - LaJolla Shores
San Diego - LaJolla Shores

San Diego – Gaslamp District and Little Italy for Dining and Partying

Great food and fun nightlife are not rare things in San Diego, but when you have only one weekend in this fabulous city, you want to try only the best. And for that, you’ll have to go to these two neighborhoods.

  • Gaslamp District is San Diego’s historic neighborhood with Victorian-era buildings and skyscrapers side by side. It hosts more than 100 of the city’s retail shops, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. You can dine fine at a rooftop lounge or try some delicious street food on the sidewalks. Live music and dancing after your belly is filled are a must.
  • Little Italy is, as it name implies, the best quarter in the city to eat authentic pizza, pasta and gelato. This eclectic neighborhood has a number of adorable sidewalk cafes, charming little shops, and specialty stores.
San Diego - Gaslamp District and Little Italy for Dining and Partying

San Diego – The Best Neighborhoods for Shopping

Sure, you can just head to one of San Diego’s numerous shopping malls, but where is the fun in that? Instead, try searching through some of the most charming shopping neighborhoods (La Mesa, Encinitas, Chula Vista, Coronado, Solana Beach and South Park). Who knows how many unique things you can find in the charming local shops? From artisan jewelry to vintage clothing, San Diego has it all.

San Diego - The Best Neighborhoods for Shopping

San Diego – Visit the City’s Top Attractions

Sometimes, you must do things by the book and be a true tourist. For that you will have to visit some of the best San Diego’s attractions.

  • USS Midway Museum offers not only indoor exhibits, but also local tours around the city’s most famous historic sites.
  • Belmont Park will not only welcome families with kids, but it will also awaken your inner child, when you take a ride at the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.
  • San Diego Sports Museum is a sentimental journey through the history of the city’s sports.
  • Museum of Photographic Arts reveals fascinating, moving and surprising images which are witnesses to the history of photography.
  • Seaport Village is a charming and quiet part of the town, where you can go to shop, explore art and drink wine.
  • San Diego Zoo is basically a huge park with animals and plants.
San Diego - Visit the City’s Top Attractions

Two days are not enough to enjoy all the wonders of San Diego, but if you plan everything carefully, you can see the best it has to offer.

This article was written by Roxana Oliver, a travel enthusiast and an occasional blogger from Sydney, Australia.

Visiting Spain: Visit the Essentials First

visiting spain

It doesn’t matter what your travelling preferences are, we all love a fiesta, and what better place to have a fiesta than by visiting Spain itself? Located in one of the warmest parts of the European continent, Spain does not only offers long sunny days, but also a rich history and culture. This country can cater to anyone’s taste. Partying all night, visiting museums and researching Spanish history or eating their delicious cuisine until your heart pops out. The only thing that you should know is where you’re heading, and this is where we step in. Look at the list below, and try to find the best Spanish ciudad for your holiday, especially if it’s your first time:

Madrid: The heart of Spain and capital of flamenco

It doesn’t do to visit Spain and not see the capital of the country, does it? As any other European capital, Madrid has everything to offer – bars that are open until late at night, great shopping centers and some of the most amazing parks in Europe. One such is the El Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply shortened to El Retiro. It was once a royal ‘’hangout’’, and it staged many concerts and garden plays. Nowadays, it is a great tourist attraction (even though greenery might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Madrid), as people can rent one of the many rowboats and paddle in the huge man made lake in the center of the park. However, Spain is the only place in the world where you can see a live performance of flamenco dances, and Madrid is the best place to do this.

madrid

Barcelona: The diamond of Catalonia

You’ve no doubt heard of Barcelona. There are numerous tourists who hit the road to Spain and decide to visit this place only. And it doesn’t matter how many days you stay, Barcelona is a city which you can never fully explore. If you really want a European holiday of your lifetime, you should find one of the best Barcelona holiday packages that are offered, and see the home of the extremely impressive pieces of Gaudi’s architecture such as the legendary La Sagrada Familia. Moreover, taking a walk-through Las Ramblas and having a cup of coffee in one of its many cafés is definitely something that you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

barcelona

Seville: From bullrings to beautiful barrios

To all the animal rights activists out there – no, we don’t agree with this either, but we must agree that this is one of the symbols of Spain and an inevitable part of Spanish history. Even though bullfighting originated in Ronda, Seville is its spiritual home. So, is it a form of art or simply animal cruelty? Well, it would be best to visit one of Seville’s many bullrings and see for yourself. However, don’t you think for a second that Seville is only good for this. As the heart of Andalusia, this magical city has many other things to offer – such as the Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful barrios of Spain, or Alcazar (perhaps better known as Dorne from HBO’s Game of Thrones).

seville

Granada: The place that’s the richest in Spanish history

First and foremost: you’re visiting Spain and you want to try tapas. Since Granada is one of the rare places in Spain where you get tapas for free alongside your drink, it should be on the must-visit list. Moreover, this is a place where you’ll see the most important historical monuments of this country. It is a paradise for every history buff. One of the best things you can see here is the Alhambra fortress – a fortress so huge that you will need a whole day to explore it to the smallest detail. If you want to imagine what it looks like, it’s said that you must imagine the world’s most beautiful gardens, add a fortress and multiply the whole image by ten. Alhambra overlooks the whole city of Granada, offering a most breathtaking view. And it’s also an excellent place to take amazing Instagram photographs! The ticket is around 13 euros, and it’s open from March to October, so make sure to plan your stay there accordingly.

granada

And these are only the essentials. Spain has so many other things to offer, such as 24/7 Ibiza parties, spring days in Valencia, visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus, walking across the world’s scariest bridge, seeing the Museum of Funeral Carriages, or eating at the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid. Spain should be your next destination. And maybe even the one after that, because you can go there as many times as you want, and you’ll still have more things on your bucket list.

The Paris Series (Part 1) – Like A Local

There’s nothing better than going to a “new” destination, and experiencing it like a local. I had been to Paris before (through the airport and in the city when I was all of 7 years old) but neither time really counts. In spite of the considerable travelling that I have done, Paris was a new destination. While it’s great to see the tourist sights like everybody else (i.e. the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sainte-Chapelle), it’s also great to immerse yourself like a local. Find the food stands, small shops, cafes and squares where the locals go. While you can find some great guide books, maps and apps to help (Rick Steves immediately comes to mind), why not actually have a local take you on a tour and show you the neighbourhood favorites?

So I linked up with a local food tour called the “New Parisian Palate” (formerly “Bobo Palate”) with Context Travel. Context is a network of specialists and scholars who act as private guides and lead small groups on walking tours through some of the world’s greatest cities. Tours include archaeology, art history, cuisine, history, urban planning, environmental science, and classics.

Our small group met outside of a bistro in upper Marais. We began our tour with a walk and talk through the iconic “Marche des Enfants Rouges” (the oldest covered market in Paris dating back to the 1600s).

Our walking tour continued for the next 2 1/2 hours and included various stops in the market, a bakery, butcher shop, prepared food and foie gras shop, a cheese shop, a wine and Armagnac shop and a chocolatier. All along the way, the small bites and samples never stopped.

418
420
450
435
431
445
444
437
448

The French are proud of their history, culture and country. And so they should be. Our guide explained how French food tastes were slowly changing, becoming more modern and incorporating flavors and food ideas from around the world. She pointed out new shops and even food trucks to support the “new Parisian Palate”. With most stops, our guide either purchased samples or gathered food in a bag for our end of tour “party” (wine, cheese, pate, baguette).

446

  If you’re thinking of a walking tour, here’s 3 bits of advice:

  1. Take a Context Tour. They are immersive and well worthwhile and get you feeling like a local (and less like a tourist). The group is limited to 6 and led by a local expert.
  2. If you take a Context food tour, don’t eat a meal beforehand (nor will you be able to eat a meal after).
  3. Take your tour in the first few days of your trip if you can. You’ll get a better feel for the city, culture, local area and the places that you’ll want to return to in the following days.

I want that local perspective wherever I go. I want to dive into the destination and its culture. And I want to get local.

Dublin Like A Local

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. 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 worthwhile venues. It’s great fun and gives 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. You might 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 and with lots of great people.

Whatever you do, don’t call an Irishman “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 later in the day. Bring rain gear and enjoy. It’s all part of Ireland.

5 Must-Try Activities During an Evening Desert Safari in Dubai

If you want to witness the dazzling sunset in the Arabian Desert at night, and later catch a glimpse of  the stars high up in the heavens, go on an evening desert safari in Dubai. A desert safari is one of the best adventures you can experience in Dubai.

Exploring the beautiful topography of the Arabian Desert and trying out the different activities that come with the tour you choose will definitely make the safari truly memorable, and something that will be etched in your heart and mind forever.

By going on a desert safari in the evening, you will see the wonderful sights and enjoy all the must-try activities in the Arabian Desert under cooler, more comfortable temperatures.

Desert Safari in Dubai

Here are five activities you have to try when you go on an evening desert safari in Dubai:

1.    Dune bashing

A desert safari won’t be complete if you don’t go dune bashing. While onboard a 4×4, you will go on a thrilling ride to navigate the picturesque sand dunes of the Dubai desert.

With the sun setting in the background, you will have a more glorious, lovelier view of the desert as you go over the different sand dunes.

Since you will be going around the sparse desert wilderness when the sun is already going down, you will be more comfortable inside the vehicle as well. You can even open the windows a bit to feel the cool breeze if the driver allows you to.

2.    Camel riding

You won’t be going on an authentic desert safari if you don’t get to ride a camel during your tour as well. Riding a camel is quite a novelty while you also get to see the wonderful sights of the Dubai desert up close.

Whether you are riding on a camel or simply standing beside one, make sure you get lots of photos with the beautiful sunset in the background.

Desert Safari in Dubai

3.    Fire show

If you want to witness something truly exciting, you’re in for a treat at the camp.

After experiencing a heart-thumping fast ride up and down the sand dunes, you can look forward to relaxing and watching what’s in store at the desert camp.

A fascinating fire show is part of the night’s repertoire of skilled entertainers. Prepare to be amazed as the skillful fire showman manipulates different fiery implements complemented with his fantastic acrobatic abilities.

Everyone in the crowd would be in awe of the dazzling fire display from start to finish, so make sure to have your camera with you and capture the beautiful fire show.

Desert Safari in Dubai

4.    Get a henna tattoo

Once the tour is over and you arrive at the desert camping grounds, make sure you take home a beautiful souvenir by getting a henna tattoo.

Let a henna tattoo artist work his or her magic on your hands, arm or leg. In the end, you will have a unique work of art on your body which you can show off. Since the tattoo is only temporary, it will last for only two to three days.

5.    Enjoy a buffet dinner

One important thing that separates a morning desert safari from one scheduled in the evening is that the latter comes with a scrumptious buffet dinner.

At the end of the tour, you can treat yourself to a buffet dinner complete with a variety of mouthwatering barbecued treats. The buffet tables and stations also have an assortment of authentic Arabian and vegetarian dishes so there is an option for everyone. You won’t be disappointed by their dessert and beverage offerings as well.

The desert safari camp and clear skies will be the backdrop of the al fresco dinner you’ll enjoy in the company of other safari-goers. You can also try puffing a shisha or drinking a traditional Arabic coffee during the evening.

A nighttime desert safari will allow you to explore Dubai’s wilderness, however sparse, and try various activities more comfortably.

Best of all, at the end of the tour, you will enjoy a delectable dinner with the clear, wonderful sky and the Arabian Desert as your background.

If you’ve come to Dubai as a holiday-goer, be sure to make the most of your trip by booking your stay at a hotel accommodation which can also arrange for other unique experiences in the emirate.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Hafiz Umer Ali Zaib is the Social Media Specialist at Luxury Tours, a leading provider of tours, cruises and safaris across the UAE. The company’s top offerings include the Dubai Desert Evening Safari, City Tours, Dhow Cruises, Mountain Tours, Limousine Service, Discounted Tickets for theme parks, and a variety of many other excursions.

5 Exquisite Wine Routes in France

As Europe’s peak travel season winds down and most people are returning to work and school refreshed from their summer vacation, the sleepy vineyards sweeping the French countryside awaken for the annual harvest. Foliage begins to turn, days and evenings become pleasantly cooler. And the picturesque back roads call out to be traversed, beckoning in one of the best times to visit France. There’s no better time than autumn to channel your inner wine connoisseur and rent a car in France. The following list is a compilation of five lovely wine regions and scenic routes fringed with vineyards that beg to be explored. Each of these destinations is sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

Alsace Wine Route

Alsace Wine Region

The Alsace region is situated along a narrow plain, which is bordered by the Rhine River to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. Why not rent something special for your trip, like a Mercedes SLK Roadster in Strasbourg? Put the top down and leisurely make your way south along the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route). This 170 km stretch of roadway begins in Marlenheim and ends in Thann. Take your time and discover the Alsace vineyards, castles, and charming villages that dot the way.

Bordeaux Wine Route

Bordeaux Wine Region

Six distinct wine producing territories branch out from the heart of the Bordeaux region. The beauty of visiting this location is that you can create a unique tour of the wineries based on your specific taste. Sample the fine red wines north of Bordeaux, and the sweet or dry white wines south of the city. Offering an excellent array of grape varietals, colors, and tastes, you won’t be disappointed when visiting this southwestern area of France.

Provence Wine Route

Provence Wine Route

South of the Alps and north of the cliff-lined Mediterranean Sea is the Provence region, a part of France that is celebrated for its rosé wine. Start your journey by driving west along the coast with your rental car in Nice and making frequent stops to appreciate the villages and scenery, follow the 200 km course to Camargue, a town just east of Montpellier. The Provence vineyards are divided into eight appellations, and there are about 350 winemakers along the way.

Burgundy Wine Route

Burgundy Wine Route

A two hour car-ride southwest of Paris leads into the rolling hills of France’s Burgundy region. Renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyards here yield some of the country’s finest wines. Burgundy has five territories, and Route des Grands Crus (road of great wines) takes you through Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. It is the area’s most popular drive and is close to 60 km. Clearly marked road signs make this itinerary very easy to follow.

Champagne Route

Champagne Wine Route

Only 160 km east of Paris, yet seemingly worlds away from the city of light, is the highly regarded Champagne region. Sparkling wine can’t claim the name Champagne unless it originates from here. There are five circuits that wind their way through each of the appellation territories. The Coast Bar route is the longest at 220 km, and the shortest courses are Montagne de Reims and Massif of Saint Thierry, each of these is 70 km.

Before setting off on any trip in France, it is important to note the country’s new driving law, which requires every vehicle to have a breathalyzer on hand. Avoid the possibility of needing to use one of these devices by staying at a lovely Chateau when choosing to indulge in a few glasses of regionally produced wine.

Enjoy the wine and enjoy France!

Auto Europe Car Rental