An Amazing Journey Europe’s Christmas Markets

 

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The air is crisp and the scents of spice and roasted chestnuts are in the air as you walk through the village inspired Christmas scenes.   As you glance around you notice Christmas lights fill the streets with a soft warm glow where bobbles, bows, candy and special treasures await. It’s an old world style atmosphere, markets are often at the center of town squares  beneath the spires of the local parish church steeples.   Laughter and music fills the air as shoppers pass by snuggled in their winter coats.    There is just something about Europe’s Christmas Markets that I don’t feel we have quite captured in the United States.  Perhaps it’s the community aspect, the gathering together sipping mulled wine as you let go the stress of the day. Perhaps it’s people coming together and catching up as they experience the warmth of Gluhwein and nibble on delectable pastries.  Europe’s Christmas Markets are simply Magical.

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Europe’s Christmas Markets

It’s the start of Holiday Season as during the first weekend of Advent Christmas Markets begin to pop up throughout Europe.  This annual tradition has been bringing happiness to locals and visitors alike for centuries.  It’s almost like you have been transported back in time to a place of happy memories and the warmth of the season.    Christmas carols surround you as you experience your first glance of the sparkle of snowflakes as they gently fall around the merchants selling their wares.  Many of these markets can take over blocks and blocks and are filled with everything Christmas.

 

 

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Germany’s Christmas Markets

Your taste buds will be filled with sweet, spice, and nutty flavors.  The food of the Christmas markets change with the village or city and sausage rules and changes according to region.  Gluhwein which is a mulled style of spice wine also changes with region, hot coco, and even non alcoholic versions are available for those who don’t imbibe.  Every market also provides a mug for your journey.  You can choose to turn it in after your visit for a deposit refund or take it with you as a souvenir.  These make great little keepsakes and or gifts.

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Christmas Market Food

The Markets are filled with everything from food to trinkets.  Many favorites are the classic wooden Christmas ornaments.  Lace and varieties of Christmas ornaments are also available and many of the items in the markets are hand crafted from local artisans.

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Europe’s Christmas Markets these are a bucket list item

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Europe’s Christmas Markets

Bundle up though as winter is starting to set in and you will appreciate the warmth of the heat lamps that surround some of the merchants.  If you forget something don’t worry you will find many selections of hats, mittens, scarves, and socks.  I recommend a couple of cups of the local Gluhwein to spice up and warm up the day or evening.  It will slowly melt away any breath of cold that sweeps the area.

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Travel with T at the Christmas Markets in Europe

If you are a lover of all things Christmas I can’t recommend these enough.  Once you go every year you will have a longing to re experience the magic again and again.  Christmas in Europe is a memory maker.  Experiences are to me more precious then things so go out and experience and build your memories.  Better yet make it a River Cruise where you can see and experience these treasures as you glide along one of Europe’s historic waterways.

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Half Timbered house of Germany’s Christmas Markets

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What is Meaningful Travel “The Pilgrimage”

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Catholic Italy Pilgrimage Photo Credit Travel with T

Travel is trending and seems on everyone’s list be it a bucket list.  It may be a vacation, a weekend, or an ongoing adventure, travel is everywhere.   People are looking at fulfilling dreams, and creating memories.  There is a shift to experience now.  It has been building lately and you see it everywhere.  An example is the Tiny house where people live in a small little place in order that they may have a larger life.  To experience is to live!   Travel is on the minds and thoughts of many.  Yet, there is something else out there in the travel world. Many are now just discovering the concept of meaningful travel.  For centuries it was “The Pilgrimage”.

 

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Assisi Catholic Italy Pilgrimage Photo Credit Travel with T

 

The pilgrimage is a way of travel in that you make religious journey.  It can be local to a place that is sacred, holy and or prayerful.  It could also be a longer journey to a destination that is farther.  The purpose and meaning of a pilgrimage are different for each.  Some go to ask for heavenly aid.  Some go to become closer and to know God better, and some to venerate or give thanks.  My journeys this year are filled with aspects of each .

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Catholic Italy Photo Credit Travel with T

 

I feel as though it might be a lost art and this is at a true detriment to our souls.   To begin a journey that is a pilgrimage it to step outside a comfort zone of your life.   It could mean stepping outside of one’s self in the aspect of prayer.  Or perhaps in the aspect of comfort, it can even be stepping outside of your comfort area with Christ.   Taking him out of the corner of your life you have placed him and bringing him to the forefront.  It is not comfortable but the gifts are immense. To experience a pilgrimage is to experience LIFE.

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The Holy Stairs Rome Photo Credit Travel with T

 

When we lose the aspect of pilgrimage we lose a great gift that countless Christians before us have given us.  Since the death of Christ, Christians have been making pilgrimages to holy places.  It has been part of who we are.  Yet I somehow feel we have somewhat lost it.  It makes me sad.  So I am using this Jubilee Year of Mercy to revive a little of that pilgrimage spirit.  What a great invitation and perfect time to experience it.

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The Holy Doors in the Year of Mercy Photo Credit Travel with T

 

The Dynamic Catholic describes it like this “The Year of Mercy is an invitation—an invitation to love, kindness, and unbounded generosity. Pope Francis is offering you the opportunity to encounter the incredible mercy of God. Encountering mercy means encountering God. It can transform your life, your relationships, your work, and your ability to embrace and experience all of life.”

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My first pilgrimage this year was to experience Grand Catholic Italy.  I was able to experience not only the “Holy Doors” in Rome but throughout Italy.  I was able to see and walk in places millions of Christians have before me.  I was able to witness the resting places of great saints who have gone before me.  I was able to witness my own faith in the pilgrimage journey in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

During a Jubilee year for the church the Holy Doors are open.  This only happens in increments of 25 to 50 years and for most a once in a lifetime journey.  It is a complete gift we have been given.  I notice though many do not quite understand what is open for us during this year.  It’s perhaps been set aside and filed away.  My prayer is many will discover what this means and they too make a pilgrimage.

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I encourage you to blow open the windows of your comfortable life and seek him who seeks you.  Go on a journey, experience a pilgrimage!  Perhaps, like me you will discover meaningful travel and it will change your life.

“The Holy Doors” a different style of Travel

The Holy Doors a different style of Travel

The timing is not perfect but I finally sit down to write this while sitting in the airport.  I am waiting on my next flight and my reflection is a little different here.   The airport is busy and loud and not a great time for a personal reflection.  There are so many thoughts coming and I am sorting them within the noisiness of the world.   It seems in my life most of the time that noisiness never ceases.   So it is in this moment I choose to tell of my journey.

It’s a different story and not my normal travel writing yet I feel it’s important.  So for those who care to join me this story will tell of a different journey a true pilgrimage and a journey more of self.

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Holy Doors of Mercy Rome Photo Credit Travel with T

My journey to the Holy Doors had been planned and scheduled as soon as the Jubilee Year had been announced.  It was going to be a “Year of Mercy”.   The announcement for me was inspiring and I so needed it and it drew me in.  There was a pulling towards it.   That strong tug and pull towards “A Year of Mercy”.   It was as if I needed a year of mercy to allow me to reflect on the past two years.   To find some type of sanity in this crazy thing that had become my life.  So different from my perfect little life I had before.   The messiness bleeds into everything now and it is part of who I am.  So in this year, in this Jubilee Year I received from the Lord what I needed.  I needed mercy, I needed time, I needed to hear the doors were open and all I had to do was walk across the threshold.  The call was there.  Thank God I was listening.

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It was like I needed to hear the words come, come to me I am here and I am waiting for YOU.   No not in the way many think about the concept of mercy but it was clear to me.  It was just like the words spoken to the Samaritan woman “If you knew the gift of God”.  I needed to re-discover the gift.  I needed to rediscover my faith in the aspect of loss.  So a pilgrimage during the year of Mercy was what I needed.

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As soon as the Jubilee Year was proclaimed I immediately started making plans for the journey.   I gathered together a group and I was set to make a pilgrimage.  It always seems that my own personality and nature does not wait around.   I move and go forward no matter what I just keep moving forward. I have always been  that way and this was no different. Not a lot of time to think about it just plan and get myself there.

So preparations made the journey began.    I am not sure I took a lot of time to gather my thoughts on what I would feel walking through those first doors.  I believe when I decided to go it was to bring not only myself but to bring my child through those doors.  I carried all my loss with me.   All the lost dreams I had for my child, all the lost hopes you carry for your children, and all the pain you feel.  It’s a large burden you carry at times it takes a toll. This was everything I was bringing with me.   I was going to make sure I walked through those doors with my beautiful daughter.  She would be in my thoughts, prayers and in my heart.  I was walking to the font of mercy that is waiting for all people of faith.

When you suffer a loss especially a loss of a child by suicide your life is completely and utterly changed.  It is turned upside down, inside out, and most every other direction. The path you were on before is forever altered.  Your dreams have been shattered and time is in a flux.  Its as if time is moving and stagnant at the same time.  At times it even moves ahead leaving you behind.  It’s as if you are stuck in the present and the past at the same time and each is tearing at you and pulling you back and forth.  Your life it forever altered by that one moment.

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It’s a journey you take a journey through loss, grief, hope, and most of all a journey of Mercy.  The Mercy of Christ as he walks with you on the path you have.  Most of the time you feel as if he is the only one with you.  He is the only one that understands your sorrow that sometimes is so strong it can almost suffocate you. He is the one there when people shy away because death makes them uncomfortable.  He is the one there as the words can never come for friends because they can never understand so they stay away. He is the one that is there when you blame yourself.  You know he is the one, the only one.  You  live out each day with the words “Jesus I trust in you”.

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For me in a year of mercy it was important for me to be able to experience the Holy Doors.    I needed  to come to the font of mercy.  To come to the threshold to walk through those doors and hope for healing the healing of my soul.   In the only place that can provide it the arms that have been there the whole time.  This is what the journey to the Holy Doors meant for me.  This is what I had come to understand in planning my own pilgrimage.

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What I was not prepared for was the overwhelming aspect of Rome.  I was not prepared for the first doors and what exactly was happening.   I could not quite hear the guide and was unsure of what was actually transpiring.   I was rushed and hurried and my moment of prayer was brief but pleading.  An internal pleading with God for mercy, for mercy for my own soul and that of my child.  Mercy for failing her.  It’s a concept many will not understand and is complete raw emotion.   It’s the life of the soul of a parent who has lost a child by suicide. It is like a battlefield as it is war torn and often tortured.  The mind is powerful and after you experience a death like suicide it often plays tricks on you.  The tricks are guilt, blame, and always what ifs.  They can eat your alive if you let them.

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On the outside you look fine.  Most of the time you act fine but on the inside there is an inner battle going on.   It is a battlefield of guilt, pain, loss and remorse.  There is often a wave almost at times like a tidal wave of emotion going through you.  You are often at times on the edge of sanity.

Other’s never know the battle that rages just below the surface. It’s comes and goes as you are working through the grief process each at their own pace and time.

So the pilgrimage was for me something different.   It’s a different style of travel.  Each persons journey on a pilgrimage is different.  Each in turn may experience reflections that are different.  Yet, the basis of this type of journey is a religious and prayerful journey.  It is where you search for some spiritual or moral significance.  For me this journey was about mercy and healing.  The healing of a mother, the healing of a wife, the healing of a daughter, the healing of a sister, an aunt, a friend.

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As I approached my first door there was an overwhelming sense of awe.  It was completely overwhelming in the aspect of the majesty of the church.  You realize walking through just how small you are in the whole world, and then you see the vast scale of the church.   You  discover the many different people of all nations and nationalities. They are all part of the church the world wide church.pexels-photo-93832.jpeg

 

There I was standing at the doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica and I could not focus.  It was as if all the noise the people the rush of adrenaline was completely taking over.

A moment of reflection was finally available.  I was able to take a moment and pray for all those who were journeying with me and those who asked for prayers. I stood there and prayed for myself and prayed for my child.   It was a hurried moment a rushed moment but it was there.   I will never be able to fully enter into a quiet prayer during this journey.  There would be far too many emotions and too many distractions.  I would find stolen moments of time.  It was here during these fleeting moments it was me and God.  Especially the times as I stopped along the way and lit candles for my child.  There would be moments in conversations with the good people.  Those that  journeyed with me.  The sharing of laughter, hopes, and dreams as each of us made our own pilgrimage.  For some it was a vacation, for others prayer, perhaps both to some also.  I sat with them and I learned a little about each person.   I enjoyed their stories, I prayed with them, and I laughed with them.

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Perhaps this was what I was meant to discover on my pilgrimage through the Holy Doors.  It was his people.  Each one bringing their own losses, hopes, and dreams.  Maybe I was supposed to see his people and through my own brokenness go forth with love.  Because the healing I was searching for the mercy I was searching for comes from LOVE.  The love of humanity in all of its brokenness, and its beauty.  Everything has not been revealed yet and I continue to reflect as I continue this year of mercy.

So right now as I look back at my journey to Rome and my pilgrimage. I continue to HOPE because isn’t that what the Holy Doors represent?  Hope.  It’s the hope of every human being.  All the dreams, the successes, the failures, and the mercy the mercy which each one of us hopes to embrace.  Despite the noisiness.  Despite the abrasiveness of the world we can take a moment even if it is small and experience Christ and see HOPE.

If you would like me to help you plan your own pilgrimage I would love to help you.  Please use the form below and let me know what you are looking for.

The best time to plan your vacation

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I have to admit every time I see those statistics of people not using their vacation it just makes me cringe.  I actually feel the chalk board nails grinding across the board and I quiver as that feeling creeps up my spine.  I want to run out the door as if it might be catching and scream in horror.  What if I too am infected and I also waste my coveted golden vacation days.  The thought itself is enough to send me into an all out search for my next travel adventure or faith journey.

As I person who travels but also plans travel I often get the question when is the best time to plan my vacation?   My answer today!  Why?  Because why not?  If you don’t start  now when?   Will you too leave your vacation hours sitting there unused and hold on!  Stop the presses!  Or, Gasp! you may lose or for that matter waste them if you have not used them.  I cringe at the thought.

 

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So the reality is if you want to take a vacation and you want to go somewhere it takes planning.  You just have to get out there and do it.  There is no time that is better than today for making those plans.  Why?  The reason is if you want to go somewhere that takes just a little planning.  Lets just say Europe as in example.  Do you need visas?   Where do you want to go?  How long can you stay?  How are you going to get there and get around?   Lots of planning but that should never stop you even if it’s seems overwhelming.  The earlier the better I say.  Also get the help of a travel planner early on they can save you a ton of time and headache and also some cash.

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It’s to your advantage say to book a cruise or a tour in advance and one of the reasons why is PAYMENTS for those who can’t spend the total right off the back and maybe don’t want to pay interest if you charged it.   For instance, most cruise lines allow you to book a year or more in advance and your small deposit holds your room until final payment date usually a few months out.  So that gives you plenty of time during the year to put money towards your vacation.  I can hear the words now, I don’t want to cruise or what if I can’t go at the time I think.    Cruise lines are incredible at that and most of them are flexible.  Even when you book a year out with them and a couple of months before something happens and you can’t go.  No worries as long as you are within 60 days out or so just move your cruise out to a more suitable time.   Especially if you purchase insurance than you really have flexibility.   The whole idea of a time share is so that you GO on vacation.  I say skip the time share and plan your vacation.   That simple..

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Assisi Italy photo credit Travel with T

For those not wanting a cruise a land based vacation at an all-inclusive resort can pretty much be done the same way.  Decide where you want to go.   You place a deposit which is usually more than the cruise deposit but still not the total price of the package.   Then you can pay it as the months go by. You can also wait until final payment usually 60 days out or so and pay it off then also.  Then as the months go by you dream.    This gives you ample time to enjoy the vacation before the vacation as you dream and do some research on your choice.    Many companies that a travel agent can find you will even let you move it to a different date if you need to.

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So again why are you waiting?   Why aren’t you traveling?  Really there are no excuses you have the time, you can spread your financial obligation out with no interest for up to sometimes over a year.  There are many who get a tax refund and it’s gone on nothing a vacation will give you a lifetime of memories worth much more than a new TV.   You have vacation it has been proven to help people deal better, handle stress easier, and relax more.   So if the beach, ocean, mountains, or some far away country beckons get on it.  Time and VACATION are a wasting.

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Why Rome is truly the Eternal City

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Rome The Eternal City

 

Rome is truly an eternal city.   There is really not a way to truly understand this though,  It takes a journey and it takes you to actually step foot there before you really understand why.  This history of the city is truly amazing from the Roman Coliseum to the Forum your are presented with centuries of people who have stood before you.   You awe at the magnitude of architecture and art representing centuries upon centuries of souls.

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Every step you take you are presented with the old and the new.   You can look back and see the old and  yet is a bustling city.   From the sights and sounds to the museums and churches it is all evident as you move through its streets.   There is so much to see and for an American tourist just visiting and so little time. 

My journey is a little different than most of the group I am with as it is part of a pilgrimage.   I bring not only my tourist side but some of my  hopes and dreams but also some of my loss and failures.   I am bringing it all with me because it is who I am.  It has made me who I am this woman of travel.

So one of my first stops in a life long dream is the Sistine Chapel.  When you step into the Sistine Chapel, you are presented a kaleidoscope of color with a palate and hues that entice the imagination.   You recognize it immediately.  As you have seen Michelangelo’s masterpiece throughout your life in various paintings, pictures, and movies.   I am here I am standing just below it, I am in Italy, and I am at the Sistine Chapel.  To my dismay there are no pictures are taken here.   So you have to capture it in your mind.  In this way it remains yours forever, however, not in a tangible way but in a somewhat ethereal way.

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There was so much after the Sistine Chapel it boggles my mind.  You could spend a lifetime here and not scratch the surface I feel.  Yet, I go on and my journey continues….   As you walk towards the Roman Coliseum you can almost hear the chanting of the crowd as the finest gladiators in the world prepare for their next battle.   You are amazed that this incredible structure is still standing being construction of it started in the year 70-72 under the rule of Vespasian.  How many have come here before and after?

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As you move through time and walk through history you come to the Roman Forum a gathering place that has been hosting people since 500 BC.   People met there to do business buying and selling were popular as was gathering to learn of the news or perhaps go to school.  You walk on the stones that were placed there by the Romans and if you are quiet you can still hear the bustle of the market place and the whispers of the newest gossip.  I wondered what were the smells here?

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This history of Rome would not be complete without visits to the first churches of Rome where the early Christians for Rome gathered and celebrated.   It is an amazing walk as you discover and delight at the stunning adornment of the various places of worship within the city.  Nothing is more spectacular than the “Pieta” now housed in the Vatican Museum.  Any journey I make to the various churches is always bittersweet for me.  I enjoy the beauty but I am sadden when I stop a moment and light my candles.   This time was no different.

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My favorite part of the travels I make a lot of time is the food.  Oh and the wine of course.   Here is no different.  So for the culinary aspects of Rome as a foodie I tell you that you will not be disappointed.   Rome is known for its internationally mouthwatering cuisine.  Classic pasta dishes like Carbonara originated here, Trattorias are on every corner and wine is always flowing.  My favorite kind of place.

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Yet the Eternal City would not be complete without the people who visit and the contrast of time is never more apparent than in Vatican Square.  it’s as if time has stood still but is still also fluid and moving.  It is where the old order meets the new.

 

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You can walk down cobblestone streets and stop in one of the many churches for prayer or perhaps shop at one of the outdoor market places, take a journey into the past and the future.  Rome is truly an eternal city a place of culture, culinary delights, history, faith, and beautiful people.  I have just touched the surface of what Rome is about.  It is the Eternal City and it waits for you too to discover it’s treasures.

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Go on discover your next destination it just might be Rome.  You will not be disappointed  

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Why River Cruising is the best way to see Europe

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I have experienced one of the best ways to see certain parts of Europe in a short amount of time which is the American Vacation and that is River Cruising.   Everything is taken care of including getting around the various countries.  No worries over hotels, where to eat, what to do, and countless hours getting to and from someplace.

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In late fall right around Thanksgiving we opted for a different style of travel.  We selected our first River Cruise.  We were very delighted and extremely satisfied and discovered this type is travel is well suited to the luxury minimalist.  There is nothing more satisfying then gliding down one of Europe’s ancient waterways in complete comfort.   From castles, to historic cities, to story book villages you are traveling on a luxury hotel and your trip is as smooth as glass in more ways then one.

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Think luxury hotel, concierge, all inclusive, all in a pace to allow you to see the sights and sounds of a delightful cities along the way.   Think someone to take care of you every step of your journey from your room to your food and drink now this is river cruising.   Comfort, elegance, active, romantic are some of the words I would use to describe this wonderful mode of travel.   For me I discovered there really isn’t anything more romantic than sitting with a glass of wine as you glide down the Rhine taking in the sights of Europe.  Sitting back and just dreaming of how throughout the centuries people have traveled along this river.  Then to think you are doing the same thing except with a little more elegance and definitely more comfort.

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We opted to cruise the Rhine over the holidays and just in time for the start of Advent season.  What a charming time of the year, everything is decorated in Christmas splendor and the Christmas markets are a wonderful breath of fresh air.  You are surrounded by extraordinary delectable delicacies to suit any fancy.

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Now being the luxury minimalist the timing is very good because the prices have dropped, this makes it a great value for the product you are getting. Edging into winter the temperatures are dropping, the sun sets earlier and it is becoming colder.  Fair weathered travelers don’t necessarily want to travel because temperatures are often not ideal.  The crowds are fewer because it is cooler.  Yet here you will discover the Christmas markets which always seem to have crowds.   They are filled with delightful smells and the warmth of many of Europe’s traditional Christmas pastries.   Here you just join in the fun and have a glass of Gluewhine (hot spiced wine)  one of my favorite little indulgences.  A visit to Europe during this time is magical. and a whirl wind of colors that fill the eyes with an experience you will not likely forget.

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The lines are pretty much non existent and you can see what you desire without the rush of summer travel.   You can visit many awe inspirational places of prayer and worship without the press of time from those who in summer are rushing to get to the next tourist attraction.  The brisk weather creates an experience not be missed as the clouds and mist gather around your backdrop of castles.  It is completely magical.

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So if you really want to see Europe and experience some amazing travel try off season travel.   Bundle up enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas in Europe and try and book a River-cruise you won’t regret it.   It can really save you some money, time, and is a great value.  It appeals to my luxury minimalist style which means it comes in a a great price for a valuable product.

I would love to help you plan your next River Cruise.  Just send me a little note and let me know what you are looking for.

 

A Better Way to Travel for the Luxury Minimalist

Monograms a better way to Travel

In the day an age of travel it’s easy to get lost in a world of so many choices.  I have recently discovered through my travels that there is a better way.  A better way to get the most from your vacation dollars and if you are an American like me a better way to make use of the short amount of time you have for vacation.pexels-photo-589989.jpeg

 

The average American vacation is 1 week or 2 weeks if you are really lucky.  This is a small amount of precious time compared to other countries who will often have 30 days or more.   So what is an American to do?  Well you can do all your own research all your own plans all your own transports, getting from here to there, all your own meals, all your own tours, ect ect.   Then you sit around and hope you get the best deal, the best price, and it comes in at budget.   You deal with an internet entity and you are left to your own devices if anything goes wrong.  After all you just spent 3 grand or more and you got nothing for that but a website and nothing to back it up.  NO human interaction what so ever.  Who booked it?  You really have no idea, all you do know is you saved 5 bucks. You feel somewhat good about it but really have no idea what to expect or even what to anticipate.

Isn’t there something better out there?

pexels-photo-230793.jpegYes Yes Yes!!!  There is and I have discovered it’s called Monograms it provides me a much better service and value for not only my vacation dollars but my time.  How about in the age of the internet we do it smarter?   Yet by all means do the research some of it’s fun until you realize there could be 8 billion entries for something simple like Paris.  So this is where Monograms is that smarter way and of course booking Monograms through your travel agent.

 

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For the luxury minimalist Monograms could not be a better option as I can maximize not only my vacation dollars, I get amazing value, and use my precious vacation time very wisely.  I am very much about value and of course luxury and it fits well into what Monograms does.  So………Who is Monograms?

neuschwanstein-castle-germany-disney-40735.jpegThey are a quiet little company offering you a one stop shop vacation that includes everything from hotels to transfers, to breakfast and some meals, and get this a LOCAL HOST for just about the same price you would pay by putting together yourself and if you really include what they do for a lot less.   Monograms will not only get you there quicker, and easier, they will do it with a lot less hassle.  Everything is arranged for you including highlights, tickets, and tours too.   You will be able to  see things quicker and easier than going alone. No waiting in lines, no waiting at the airport to figure out how you’re getting to the hotel, no waiting to grab your iPhone or dictionary to figure out what someone is trying to help you with or explain.  Your local host will pick you up and take you right from the airport.  It is NOT a tour.  It’s is totally self directed in the aspect you are not with a group of people.  You have some things which are scheduled at a certain time not unlike booking a visit to a popular attraction.  The difference is no line.  Transportation all included no having to worry about how your getting from there to there.  It’s set.

pexels-photo-338515.jpegIn Paris for instance a taxi is 150 or so from the airport to downtown where you want to stay because it is close to everything and walking distance.  Now you could take your luggage with you and catch a train which would be less but when you are lugging around a week or two of luggage good luck. Especially because it’s not really saving you any money.  With Monograms this is included remember your local host pics you up at the airport in a private car.  In Paris the price of a hotel in the same downtown area can be upwards of 300 or more per night with Monograms this is included.  Tours to the Louvre, Eiffel tower and all the must see attractions yes you guessed it included.

france-landmark-lights-night.jpgWhen in Rome why pay to wait in line at the Vatican which can sometimes take up to 4 hours or longer especially in the height of the season?   Why have to worry about getting to and from the different areas of Vietnam and Cambodia all the while not speaking the language?   What are the best places or things you should see in Venice or in Budapest?  All these are taken care of for you when you book with your travel agent a Monograms vacation.  Which leaves time for………………………….

 

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When you only get 7 days those 7 days become extremely valuable and that time becomes very important.  So why not do it in a way that provides a stress free vacation at pretty much the same cost you could get doing it yourself.   Luxury and service at a great price is extremely valuable so why settle for less?

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So for the luxury minimalist I say give your travel agent a call and have your next vacation be a Monograms vacation.  Stress free, comfort, service, value all of these become very important to me when I am using my minimal vacation hours.  Why would I want to settle for anything less?  Yes I would say the journey is part of the destination but I like the journey to be comfortable of course with a little bit of luxury built in.

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Renaissance Glendale Hotel and Spa

IMG_0905Well this was my next stay with my Marriott Gold Status and I am at the Renaissance Glendale Hotel and Spa.  I had a chance to travel here over the summer.  At first glance in the Lobby it is a spectacular view.  The design is great and you do get the wow factor when you walk in.  Unfortunately that is where the wow ends.

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Unfortunately being gold here did not matter no room upgrade and there was no thank you for being gold.  The front desk was nice enough and even stated we were in a nice room.  The room was just ok and overlooking what appeared to be air conditioners.  Not a nice view at all pretty ugly really.  I mean you can see the stadium and maybe that is the draw.  Not impressed.  Arizona sky was pretty though.

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Room with a view?  You decide

The hotel is in a great area by the stadium and there is plenty to do as there are lots of shops and such adjacent to the hotel a short walk away.

As we walked through the hotel itself there was very few employees that even bothered to smile and say hello.   This is huge in feeling welcome in any place and such a simple gesture that was completely lacking at this property.

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Lovely water feature upon entrance

When you stay at Marriott you expect certain things or at least I do.  I do expect a nice welcome when I arrive.  I would like prefer even if there is not an upgrade to be greeted with thanks for being a gold member.  I would also appreciate as you walk throughout the hotel for the staff to be pleasant and smile.   I could not really find it in this hotel.

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My first Renaissance brand experience was not looking too good.

We proceeded up to the room and in was simply and nicely decorated.  Yet a little worn everywhere.  Carpets appeared to have seen better days.  My guess is it just might be a party hotel for guest going to the games and so the rooms are a little worse for wear.

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oh hum

We spent one of our days at the pool which is nice and they have nice little cabana’s that you have to pay for to use.  They have a bar outside also that you can procure beverages.  We opted for a couple of beers.  The bartender at the time was engrossed in conversation with another guest.  Yet, a simple I will be right with you would have worked here.  Instead we waited as he continued his conversation without acknowledging us or even a smile.  I am beginning to wonder where the guest services standards are.

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beer was good

Not to be disappointed by the consistency of mediocrity in service our room was never made up the following day.  The housekeeper came close to 5 pm and at that point really what is the point?

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Courtyard area

So did I fine anything good about the hotel.  YES!!!  The young woman attending to the concierge lounge was very warm, welcoming and engaging.  Unfortunately I lost my original draft of this post and cannot remember her name.   She was the one shining light in an otherwise very disappointing Gold visit.  Her set up was nice, clean, and she attended to everything wonderfully.  The concierge lounge is one perk for Gold members but usually open only during the week.  It can be hit or miss on breakfast at varying hotels if they do not have this little benefit.

As my year progresses I am not really sure if the value of staying consistently at one hotel is worth it.  We were able to access the lounge on one day which was good, we received high speed internet which is a sore spot of contention for most Marriott’s and guest, we had a mediocre room, it seems I may just have to do a dollar cost average on what we actually receive.

So I continue on my journey with Gold.   Also, I will usually give a property another chance if needed.   So at summer rates I might try this property again.  At high season definitely not.

I did find another Marriott property a mile away that I absolutely loved.  It was the Springhill Suites  right up the road and still in the same great location.  Now this was a small property and it is not considered a luxury brand but the service was great, the property in great condition and my stay enjoyable.

If you need to book any Marriott property even this one if you choose as it is right next to the stadium.  Has a great location and possibly I was just there on an off day.

Please use booking sight at TravelwithT.mtravel.com.  I would be very thankful and it is how I make my living.

 

 

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Long Beach Marriott

IMG_1271A exquisitely beautiful hotel adjacent to the airport with an outdoor area that is beautifully tranquil. This little gem is placed conveniently adjacent to the airport but is nothing like a typical airport hotel yet not like the JW in Houston either.

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We were greeted with a warm smile at the front desk and throughout the hotel.  We were given a room on one of the higher floors as this was a simple upgrade.  We were only going to be here overnight so it was fine.  We were leaving out of the Los Angeles Port to catch our Princess Cruise.   This was in Long Beach and not too far from the port.  We chose it because of it’s rates and it’s location really.

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The Lobby is stylishly designed with hues of blue, beige, and reminds me of sea foam I guess.   A really wonderful choice being we were headed out on a ocean cruise.

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We had a chance to enjoy the pool area in the evening as friends came to visit us while we where there.

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I have to say it is rather surprising that you do not really notice the large air craft sometimes just right over you head.  We had a nice conversation on one of the patio’s out doors and hardly noticed the aircraft flying above.

The rooms are nicely designed and we were presented with upgraded amenities.  The Thann soap smells wonderful.

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The halls throughout are brightly decorated and as you can see feature a cherry style wood grain finish.

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Every detail is beautiful from the exquisite flowers to the stylish and classic telephone.  I do love how Marriott takes care of all these design details to provide not only a comfortable stay but a feast for the eyes for those who care to look.

 

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We had a chance to venture off property during our evening and were treated with some of the best Mexican food at a tiny little place around the corner from the hotel within walking distance.  It’s in a little strip type mall and literally is really close.

We enjoyed a morning breakfast at no cost because we are Marriott Gold members.  It offered an array of items typical of your hotel breakfast.  It was set in there main dining area adjacent to the outdoor pool area.

For my Marriott Gold status this was a great little property.  A nice little upgrade, free breakfast, high speed internet, a concierge lounge it was the weekend so I did not use it, and nice and pleasant staff.

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This is a great little property for anyone visiting the area or flying in or our of Long Beach.  Not far from the Los Angeles Port in San Pedro and a great stop before your cruise.  It’s a little bit of tranquility before your next adventure.

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So if you would like to book this or anything else please use my booking site at TravelwithT.mtravel.net.   I would love to help you.

 

A Year with Marriott Gold: Destination Salt Lake City

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My year with gold continues with a stay in Salt Lake City at Fairfield Marriott.  We chose this hotel based on convience.  Location to airport, shuttle service and an opportunity for park and fly.  We are headed to Europe over Thanksgiving and needed a place to leave our vehicle.

I do have to say the smaller Marriott properties tend to be what appears a little more friendly.   This small hotel was no exception.   We enjoyed a pleasant check in although they missed the thank you for being gold.  The gentleman was friendly and the cookies were a nice touch after a long drive.

The hotel itself is nicely designed in standard Fairfield style.   Everything was up to date and the property was well maintained.  Our room was comfortable and nicely decorated.  The bed was standard for a Fairfield meaning comfortable.

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Morning was great and the front desk gentleman was friendly and I had and enjoyable conversation with him.  Unfortunately we did not have tme for breakfast but the dining area was nicely set with standard fare.  We had a pleasant ride to the airport with the shuttle and the driver was also very nice.

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We were at the airport when my husband realized he had left his phone in the shuttle.   We telephoned the hotel and they were kind enough to bring the phone back to the airport.   Thank you Marriott!!  Awesome service and we so appreciate it.

So although Fairfield does not offer a lot in the way of Gold they go along way in customer service.   I would love to stay again!   Oh wait I will on the way back.  So see you soon Salt Lake City Airport Fairfield Marriott.

As always if you would like to book this hotel please go to my booking site at travelwitht.mtravel.com  Which is how I earn a little money on my blog.

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