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!

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Best Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Museums

Amsterdam is known for many things, but one thing you may not think of when dreaming of this Dutch city is Museums. Few people realize that Amsterdam is actually home to over 50 museums, many of which are very interesting and thought provoking. Some of them are strange. Here is a list of some of the interesting ones you might want to check out the next time (or first time) you travel to Amsterdam.


BEST MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

Het Grachtenhuis Museum
This is a special museum located on one of the most beautiful and upmarket Herengracht canal. It explores the history of the canal district (a world heritage site) with 3D animation, models, projections and an interactive multimedia exhibition. A very modern look at Amsterdam’s history and a great way to start to your visit.

Tulip Museum
The tulip is often used as a symbol of the Netherlands, so this museum is quite popular with locals and tourists alike. If you love botany, history, or tulips in general, this is the museum for you.

Anne Frank House
The hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II is now a museum and is one of the biggest attractions in Amsterdam. See how hard it was and view the original diary on display while at this location. Book a rental car at Schiphol Airport and take the 20 minute drive to the historic museum. This is a must do but get there early because the lines can be long.

Amsterdam Museums - The Anne Frank House

NEMO Science Museum
A hands on museum, NEMO is very popular among children. Science and technology are the themes here, so it’s a must visit if you’re with kids on vacation. Get a Museumkaart or I Amsterdam City Card for free admission. Ask about discounted group rates!

Torture Museum
This place brings out the macabre in everyone. View a collection and learn about some of the oldest cruellest torture methods of the past. Thankfully most of these methods are no longer in use. The fact that most of what’s on display are actual artifacts is particularly disturbing.

Museum of Bags and Purses 
To me, being surrounded by this many handbags and purses seems like a scene from the previous museum!

National Maritime Museum
The museum is dedicated to maritime history and contains many artefacts associated with shipping and sailing. The collection contains, paintings, scale models, weapons and world maps. Moored directly outside the museum is a replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century ship which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies.

Van Gogh Museum
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, explore the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh work. A must-see for any traveling virtuoso, see his work and learn about his life story. You won’t be disappointed!

The Rijksmuseum
This is the Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. It showcases national treasurers and artifacts from over 800 years of Dutch history. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum. Again, a must visit!

There are of course more museums, including the Museum of The Canals, the Costume Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Houseboat Museum and more. They make for an interesting day and a way to quickly immerse yourself in Dutch culture and history.

Can you think of any interesting or strange museums that are in Amsterdam?

The Italy Road Trip

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 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. Walking 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 give 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 take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

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 and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries 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 leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 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. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

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?