Step by Step – The Ultimate Form of Slow Travel!

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When planning a long-awaited vacation, how you want to travel is just as important as where you want to travel. If you are somebody who enjoys culture, outdoor life and a slower form of travel, then taking a walking might be right up your alley. Choose your desired level of activity and have a unique experience, discovering new cities and regions.

Nowadays, you can find walking vacations suited for anyone’s needs and every level of fitness. Many tours combine traditional sightseeing and walking. That means you can enjoy a morning walking thru beautiful scenery and then continue with some less physical adventures, for example, a cooking class, wine tasting or a visit to a craftsman.

Explore the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and their towering rock monoliths.

The possibilities are endless – book a Spanish culinary tour that takes you through charming villages, or – if you prefer a bigger challenge – spend a week in the mountains. Taking a walking tour may not be what you imagine – it is the perfect combination of comfort and activity. When it comes to accommodation, no sleep bag required-we’re talking lovely inns with fluffy duvets, fresh warm bread or croissants, and lots of hot water!

Contrary to trekking tours, you won’t experience high altitudes or rough conditions. When backpacking, specialized equipment is typically needed, and training is a must.  Not the case with walking tours.  Usually, you only carry what is needed for the day while your baggage is transported to your next hotel. There’s no hassle and no tired backs. If you are somebody who likes to treat yourself after a long day, some tours even offer meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels with spas!  But walking tours offer more than deluxe-style travel.

Literally, you can stop and smell the flowers along the way on a walking tour.

Zipping by not allowed!

When traveling to a destination for the first time, it can be overwhelming with all there is to see and do. Walking tours allow you to focus on a smaller region and travel at a slower pace and even on your own pace. Of course, driving on your own or with a tour means you may see more in terms of area, but walking allows you to see a destination more closely and more deeply.

Rather than seeing works of Van Gogh in a museum, walk sites he visited, and the places he painted in Arles and St. Remy in Provence.  Furthermore, some places can be accessed only on foot. Just explore all of the incredible alleys of Fes in Morrocco and gorgeous enjoy panoramic vistas of the Alpine valleys that otherwise might be missed!

Eat that extra dessert!

Walking tours are perfect for travelers who seek adventure but don’t relish the thought of sore muscles.

And better yet, it’s great for those that like to enjoy local food. That walking, it’s burning calories your consumed during wonderful meals!  The level of activity and distances vary. Even those who aren’t athletically oriented can find a tour suited for their abilities. There is truly nothing more wonderful than being outdoors for long periods of time, enjoying nature, and walking through the sunshine (or rain – its own joyful type of experience).

Let others do the work!

Planning might be fun for some, but good luck trying to find a restaurant on a trail in the Bavarian forest or someone to transport your luggage from one village to the next.  All done for you on a walking tour.  These tours also offer some unique sights and experiences that you might not even know exist. Simply follow your guide (or the information provided by the company if you are going on a self-guided tour) and let your worries drift away.

There’s no campfire grub on a walking tour.  Enjoy wonderful local cuisine featuring local farm-fresh ingredients.

The route and distance are mapped out and time to explore on your own is frequently scheduled.  Distances during the day may be as few as a couple of miles to as many as 10.  You may find a short walk during the morning in one town followed by a transfer to another town for a short walk before dinner.

Walking tour companies also know that everyone is different. Self-guided tours allow you to walk the entire tour on your own. However, those who prefer to meet new people can choose a small group tour led by a local guide who knows the area and the culture well. Days spent walking with others allow you to get to know other participants and friendships to grow – lovely for those traveling solo. After all – what can be better than meeting people who share similar interests to you?

When choosing a tour, it is crucial to pay close attention to what is included and the level of difficulty, since the terms – hiking, walking, trekking – may vary by company. You will find walking tours all around the globe – from Europe to Southeast Asia and beyond.

Enjoy the destination and those with you on a walking tour.

There’s a song that may just be talking about walking tours –

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy.

Life’s too short and vacations go too fast.  Slow down and enjoy a walking tour.  I’m ready to help when you’re ready to explore.  Call me!

Pat Ogle-CollinsStep by Step – The Ultimate Form of Slow Travel!
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Rollin’ on a river, soakin’ up the culture!

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Know anyone that loves river cruising?  Probably so as river cruising continues to increase in popularity.  It’s easy to say it’s the smaller ships driving this increase.  Yes, that’s part of it.  But for those that enjoy culture, including history, food, wine, architecture, and more, these journeys put all these aspects of a destination front and center.  So if exploring the culture of a destination ranks as a primary driver for your motivation to travel, river cruising might just offer a different style of travel to satisfy that yearning.

The popularity of river cruising continues to increase.

Regionally Focused Itineraries

Rivers naturally allow for more focused itineraries.  You won’t see a river cruise ship traveling anywhere near the speed of a cruise ship.  Also, these smaller ships need only limited docking facilities, unlike their oceangoing counterparts.

Half timbered houses in Strasbourg, France similar to those found in Germany

Slower going and more available docking facilities mean these cruises travel shorter distances over the length of the cruise and between ports, concentrating the focus generally on smaller regional areas.  For example, in France you find cruises focused on Provence or Bordeaux.  Cruises of 7 days usually only cover a couple of hundred miles even when passing thru several countries and the cultures of those countries meld from one into the other.

Step Right Into the Culture

All ashore means something totally different on a river cruise.  First, when departing the ship, you step directly into a town or city rather than on the outskirts, so right from the start, you can enjoy the feeling of the destination immediately.  This access allows passengers to take full advantage of what each stop has to offer – have lunch or dinner in a local restaurant;  enjoy a coffee at a café where you can see the ship;  watch the locals play an unknown card game outside a restaurant in the afternoon; walk thru a local market and take your purchase of a fragile item back to the ship before a bike ride.

Want something more in-depth or experiential?  River cruises offer numerous excursions at each stop, many included in the price of your cruise.  Wine tours, culinary tours, and history tours as well as tours of famous monuments, landmarks, and castles.  For those more active, guided bike tours in cities and towns, along river banks and thru forests provide calorie-burning opportunities.  Hiking tours to panoramic vistas, historical landmarks, and areas of natural beauty entice many.  There are even yoga tours!

Sightseeing, scenery and winery visits can all be
done on bike tours offered on river cruises.

Cultural Exploration Doesn’t Only Happen Onshore

River cruisers enjoy culture all around them on board the ship as well as onshore.  With frequent stops in areas known for their agricultural products, chefs procure high-quality local ingredients to create exquisite meals.  These meals also frequently incorporate local dishes as well, like Hungarian goulash, Bavarian bratwurst, flaky strudels from Austria, and lusciously rich cheeses from France to enjoy at the end of your meal.

Champagne served on deck of a river cruise.

Agriculture includes grapes and from those grapes come many of the wines and spirits served on board.  Rieslings from Germany and rosés from Provence accompany your meal and you can enjoy Calvados from France, Genever from Holland, and local beers over conversation with friends and other passengers in the evening.

A slow pace and easy access to the ship allows cruise ships the opportunity to engage with people of the area to bring their local culture onboard.

Musicians, dancers, storytellers delight passengers with their onboard performances.  After a busy morning onshore, passengers can opt to enjoy a craft session or lecture onboard in the afternoon to gain additional insights into local life.

And don’t forget the other passengers joining you on your cruise.  Most river cruise passengers have traveled extensively and maintain a wide range of experiences and interests.  With the small intimate nature of the ships, interesting conversations occur naturally among passengers from the United State and countries around the world.  Cross-cultural interaction comes not only from the destination but with the passengers and the crew as well.

The World Awaits

When thinking river cruises, most think of Europe and particularly cruises on the Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Saone and Seine, the Yangtze in China, and the Nile in Egypt.  Yet with civilization developing around rivers all over the world, river cruising will continue to expand.  Now you can find cruises on the Dordogne and Garonne in France, the Po in Italy, the Duoro in Portugal, the Volga in Russia, the Amazon in Peru, and the Mekong in Southeast Asia.  There’s even a river cruise on the Zambezi in Africa!

Local performers offer a view of local culture on board river cruises.

River cruising is becoming increasingly popular on the Mississippi, Colombia, and Snake Rivers in the US as well.   They’re still a significant number of rivers around the world capable of supporting river cruise ships, so that means there will be a lot of cultures left to explore going forward.

With so much to see, so much to do, and so much to enjoy, river cruising is a perfect fit for travelers who are “culture vultures”.  Ready to explore a destination differently?  Call me to float some ideas!

Pat Ogle-CollinsRollin’ on a river, soakin’ up the culture!
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Once a year there’s another happiest place on earth – Munich’s Oktoberfest!

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Talk about a party!  Oktoberfest started in Munich in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria.  Today millions attend each year to celebrate the beer culture of Bavaria and share in gemütlichkeit, a feeling of friendliness and cheer. This two-week fun-filled event presents cultural travelers with delightful opportunities to celebrate the Bavarian tradition, spend time with Germans or tourists visiting Germany, and enjoy classic Bavarian food and beer.

A tent at the Oktoberfest in full swing!

I can assure you this is an intoxicating (pun intended) experience of beer drinking, food, song, dance, and care-free gaiety. It is a rare opportunity for engaging in an overwhelming carnival spirit on the expansive Theresienwiese, a large open area in the heart of Munich.

Each year the Oktoberfest starts with a parade that brings barrels of beer to the fest site, the Theresienwiese.

Knowing a few tips to help you navigate the parties in the beer tents helps maximize the fun.

  • While called the Oktoberfest, the fest always starts on the third Saturday in September and runs thru the first Sunday of October.  Tents are open daily from 9 am and continues through the day until 10:30 pm when the last song is played by the band and the lights to out at 11:30 pm.  On weekends and public holidays, tents open at 9 am.
  • The fest starts with a parade that brings barrels of beer to the fest followed by the official tapping of the first barrel by the mayor in the Schottenhamel tent.  Once the tapping ceremony ends, 12 gunshots are fired, signaling to the other tents that the fest is open!
  • Getting the best places in the tents means showing up at the festival early, particularly on weekends though the best time to go is during the weekdays. The partying goes on inside the tents where up to 8000 people drink happily.   If you are not inside, the only other place you can grab a beer is outside in the adjacent beer gardens.
  • During the 16 day fest, over 6 million people will attend, drinking over 7 million liters of beer and eating 510,000 roast chickens and 60, 000 sausages.
  • A simple way of finding an open seat at Oktoberfest is to download the official Oktoberfest app. This app will make it easy for you to find your way around the fest and to keep track of your friends.

Wurst, pretzels and roast chicken accompany the beer at the Oktoberfest.

  • Enjoying the traditional delicacies offered inside the tents is an important part of the fun. Tents are of various sizes, styles, decor, themes, and vibes with each one offering a unique experience in terms of beer, entertainment, and food. Check out the offerings in various tents prior to deciding on a tent.  While the classic chicken, wurst, and pretzels are served in all tents, each tent offers its own dishes as well.  Finding this out after you have found seats may cheat you out of the opportunity to find a new favorite dish.
  • Be polite, friendly, and ready to share tables with everyone. At the heart of Oktoberfest is the spirit of friendship. A huge part of the fun is making friends with Germans and other tourists.
  • Be forewarned that Oktoberfest beer is stronger than its deceptive light color.

Aloyisus watches over fest goers in the Hofbrau tent.

  • Lastly, but most importantly, learn the words of Ein Prosit and their meaning. This is a song you will hear throughout the day. You are expected to sing along each and every time. It is German for “A toast, a toast, to cheers and good times”, and when it is sung, raise your mugs high in the air, toast, and drink.

These few tips provide some basics for an enjoyable experience at the fest, but there is so much more.  Guidance from an “expert” can make all the difference.  Start practicing your arm curls and give Wizard of Odysseys a call, because it is never too soon to book, even when the fest is months away.

Pat Ogle-CollinsOnce a year there’s another happiest place on earth – Munich’s Oktoberfest!
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