Join Creative Vacations over the next three weeks as our Travel Consultants share their insights from recent trips they have taken. Today we hear from Michaela!
Twenty-three years ago, a younger Michaela stepped foot in France, and it changed her forever. My love affair with travel, seeing the world and wanting to make travel dreams come true for others started right then and there. Standing in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, tears in my eyes, I knew what I was going to do when I "grew up."
Fast forward to now, and I had the opportunity to experience a river cruise with U by Uniworld sailing The Seine Experience. While I have been to several parts of France before, river cruising would give me a different point of view, and a new way to experience this beautiful country. River cruises give you the opportunity to dock in the center of most destinations, letting you step off the ship and easily see the way the locals live. The small group tours give you a chance to see and do things that larger groups are not able. And just imagine waking up, rolling over and watching the countryside of France sail by every morning!
April 28 - Upon our arrival in Paris, we boarded the B, got checked in and ventured out to walk to the Eiffel Tower. Strolling along the Seine we saw the Statue of Liberty (this quarter scale version was given to France from the USA to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution) and several interesting and beautiful bridges. Walking up the steps of the Pont d'lena, BOOM, La Tour Eiffel! Such a breath-taking site. This was my third visit and it never, ever gets old! After walking a bit more, grabbing a bite to eat we watched the Eiffel Tower *sparkle* (such a cool thing to see!) and then headed back to the ship to settle in and get ready for the rest of the cruise.
April 29 - Today we arrived in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Our included tours started a bit later, so we got to sleep in a little. That is another benefit of river cruising, time. You have time to choose how you want to spend the time and where you want to go on your own outside of the included tours. With port in a central location, there are so many options! Prior to our tour to Versailles we explored a local flower shop (the smell was heavenly!) and saw some of the local ruins. Europe is a great place for history buffs, they take such pride in their history, and work hard to preserve so much of their historical features while still making progress! The Versailles tour let you tour the gardens and Marie Antoinette's Petite Trianon. We opted to wander the left gardens and saw the dancing water that is set to music. It was lovely, and I could have stayed and watched all day, but our tour of the Petite Trianon was starting so we headed off. After that tour we arrived back at the ship with some time to wander before departure. We found the Bateaux Chocolate, and when you see a Chocolate Boat, you have to go to the Chocolate Boat! It was a perfect afternoon treat before getting back on board to set sail to Rouen.
April 30 - There are things that even the best Travel Consultant can't control - the weather being one of them. Today we woke up in the historic town of Rouen, and Mother Nature decided to not only "rain on our parade" but snow! But one thing we can control is how flexible our plan was, so we opted out of the walking tour this morning and spent some time onboard in a "room with a view" with the hope the weather would get better for our tour in the afternoon. It did indeed so we ventured out and explored the Giant clock, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen and the Joan of Arc museum. Another quick (and yummy) bite to eat at a local restaurant and supermarket, then back to the ship for dinner and to get ready for our Rouen Pub Crawl. Enjoying a cherry lambic and Belgian Duvel (or two!) made for a wonderful chance to meet new friends and fun evening in Rouen! Back to our home away from home on this late night to settle in and get ready for another amazing adventure tomorrow!
May 1 - Mother Nature played nice today and gave us a beautiful day four our walking tour of Honfleur. Unfortunately, is was May Day which is a bank holiday in France, so the Victor Hugo Museum and museum of the Seine were both closed. However, the sun was shining, birds were chirping and this charming area is now added to the list of "places I can see myself living." Known for their mussels, caramels and cider, it just invited us to explore and indulge. A walking tour of the waterfront and church, tasty lunch outside topped with cider and then it was time to do a little shopping and head back to the bus to return to the ship. Our ride took us over the Normandy Bridge, and cool sight to see. Once back in Claudebec we explored some more, and then returned to the ship for dinner. Afterward it was still daylight, so we grabbed some blankets and curled up on the top deck to watch this little slice of France slip away as we sailed to our next destination. A first for me, we spent some time in the "silent disco" which was definitely a unique experience!
May 2 - This may or may not have been the most anticipated day of my trip! I love all things Monet, and today, on my birthday, I get to tour the real-life paintings (ie Monet's gardens) and his famous pink and green home. The day could not have been more perfect. I slept in. I took an amazing painting class where I did water lilies with the Japanese Bridge. I took a bike ride to GIVERNY. It took my third trip to France to be able to see this bucket list item for me, and it was absolutely amazing. Yes, even travel consultants have bucket lists! It was truly amazing walking through the paintings I have collected most of my life. After the bike ride return we wandered a little more, enjoyed dinner and more chocolate goodies (it is my birthday after all!) and then called it a night, going to sleep having had an absolutely fantastic birthday!
Days like today are why I do what I do. I LOVE helping people experience those kinds of moments for themselves. It's what started me on this path all those years ago and still keeps me wanting to see what's around the next bend.
May 3, 4, 5 - Bonjour again Paris! The ship docks and becomes your floating hotel as you can explore all that Paris (and surrounding areas) has to offer. We took in museums, including my favorite - l'Orangerie Museum- with Monet's large nympheas beauties. It makes me want to spin around and dance, but I contained myself. Mostly. We went to the Louvre, wandered the Tuileries, toured Notre Dame and wandered, ate and just enjoyed being in this amazing city. We did check out of the B and spent some time in the Victoria Palace Hotel, which is beautiful and quite a way to experience a night (or more!) in Paris. Alas, it has to come to an end at some point, so after an amazing 8 days we headed to the airport and back to our families. We may be leaving Paris, but Paris will never leave us. France, you never disappoint. Ever.
MORE PICTURES! This is just a small sampling of the pictures I took, and not a single one does the trip justice. Call me to start planning your own river cruise today!
Disney is known as the “Happiest Place on Earth”, and also probably where most kids will tell you they want to go. While there are rides, characters and fun to be had, don’t exclude it from your list of ways to have a different experience. There are the more well-known holiday parties and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, but Disney does offer some things that will make you believing dreams do come true. If you have a budding chef you will want to take a look at the Family Culinary Adventure. Animal enthusiasts will love the options for the Wild Africa Trek or the Night Safari. Imagine your little princess spending tea time singing and dancing with a princess at the My Disney Girl’s Perfect Princess Tea. For something completely different but with a Disney feel, check out Adventures by Disney for a whole list of domestic and international vacations that will give you VIP experiences and local opportunities made with families in mind.
A lot of people are afraid to even think of a European vacation with kids, but there is no reason! Taking in the changing of the guard or walking the grounds of Windsor Castle or Versailles will have the royal want-to-be in your family imagining their own fairy tale ending. A boat ride down the River Thames for a wonderful adventure will give you a different vantage point for sights like Big Ben and Westminster Abby. All ages will find something interesting in the gothic style of Notre Dame, whether it is the stained glass, Romanesque architecture or the famous gargoyles. Or perhaps playing art detective at the Louvre will be the highlight of your European adventure. Finding a travel itinerary that can make a vacation just for you is exactly what we do at Creative Vacations. Like our family that recently came back from Italy, exploring Capri and the Amalfi Coast, we were able to arrange private hiking, cooking experiences and even limoncello making!
If you prefer to stay in the US, think outside the beach. There is so much to explore in the National Parks with opportunities like archeology activities, fossil walks or painting and photography tours that give you a chance to expand upon your visit. Or perhaps you would like to see what it would be like to stay on a working Dude Ranch! Enjoy all the comforts of a resort vacation with the experience of life on a ranch, like The Resort at Paws Up in Montana. If you think Colorado is just for skiing, check out the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, where even the four legged kids are welcome to experience a one of kind vacation. With activities that bring kids to nature and immerse them in adventure, it is sure to be a vacation that with create lifetime memories.
No matter what your ideal family vacation is, Creative Vacations Travel Consultants will take the time to listen to you, find out what your family likes and match you up with a trip that will make your friends ask you where you found that great vacation!