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Friday, January 20, 2012

The Rhine's Hidden Gems: Dusseldorf, Bonn & Cologne


When we picture the Rhine, we see for castles and vine-covered hills. However, the river is more than that; it’s an “urban lifeline” passing through the high-quality-of-life state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and connecting the towns of Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf. Impressively, Dusseldorf ranked No. 6 on a list of high-quality places to live. See what these these hidden gems have to offer.

Dusseldorf

Düsseldorf
Founded where the languid waters of the River Dussel collide with the Rhine, this city lies away on either side of the Dussel. Dusseldorf is home to Europe’s largest Japan Town and fashion fair. If you visit the town, it is imperative to try its signature Altbier (Old Beer), which is poured through the spigots of 250 different inns, restaurants and bars. For great grub, head on over to Brauerie Zum Schiffchen, a restaurant where Napoleon and his staff celebrated their victory over the Rhineland.

Moreover, alluring shopping can be found at Königsallee, the trendy boulevard featuring exclusive, swanky stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Museums there are abundant, but the one to see is the two-in-one K20K21, boasting 21st century works in K21 and 20th century works by Picasso, Klee & Mondrian in K20; and the Kunst im Tunnel, presenting contemporary art in a former DPW tunnel. Finally, Düsseldorf’s MediaHarbor contains contemporary works of German and international architects, while attracting visitors to its landmark, Gehry’s Leaning Towers.


Bonn
Once the nation’s capital and Beethoven’s hometown, Bonn still breathes historic political life. The Deutsche Welle at one time housed the German Parliament, while the Villa Hammerschmidt was home to the president of West Germany. Today, the Hofgarten Park hosts university folk instead of youth protests. Furthermore, museums run rampant in the city. You can see a wide collection of Beethoven’s portraits, instruments and more at his museum, the Beethoven-Haus, and the House of August Macke, a painter who created more than 400 German Expressionist masterpieces. Or to learn more about the aforementioned historic changes, you can visit the Haus der Geschichte.

Cologne
Cologne
First things first: the Gothic Cathedral. The city’s primary attraction is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the Roman occupation. Inside, you’ll find the Shrine of the Three Magi and other historical treasures from 1,100 years ago. Don’t miss its most noteworthy exhibits: St. Peter’s staff and chains. Across this monumental work of genius, you’ll see the Romano-Germanic Museum, where you’ll discover the life of Dionysus on a Mosaic floor, and the world’s largest collection of Roman glassware among other riches. Lastly, the Fragrance Museum is the oldest perfume factory in the world boasting Eau de Cologne, the world’s oldest perfume brand. Other top museums include the Chocolate Museum, the Museum of Applied Art, and the Sport and Olympics Museum.

Delve into any of these top River Towns on one of our River Cruises!
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Barcelona Shines


Barcelona is more than just a side excursion.
The vibrant capital of Catalonia offers more than sandy beaches and delightful Mediterranean sun.
It’s a fusion of history meets modern world. The beauty of this city is that there’s always something new to see. Even when you think you’ve seen it all, you‘ll stumble upon an entirely new place.
And 2012 is going to be her year.
“Barcelona is a constantly evolving city,”said Neomie Menahem, director of Escapade Vacations. “With each visit one will find something new to discover, whether it be in the arts, the architecture, the gastronomy or the nightlife. Barcelona strives to offer something for everyone—it has an edge few cities can replicate.”
Below is a glimpse of what this vivacious destination has to offer.

See
Gothic Quarter – Get lost in the maze of narrow streets at medieval Gothic Quarter. Located at the heart of the city, this square features funky shops, lively café’s, and splendid old buildings lining the streets, including the stunning Cathedral, built during the 13th to the 15th centuries and resulting in a magnificent feat of gothic architecture. After taking in some spectacular sights, be sure to pop into any of the surrounding tapas bars. One to check out is Origins, a family-owned cafe serving up some awesome portions of botanas.

La Sagrada Familia
The Palau – The famed concert hall delivers some of the city’s most popular musical entertainment and a monument that epitomizes the modernism of Catalan.

Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia – Arguably the icons of the city, these two landmarks most definitely deserve a comprehensive visit. Although La Sagrada has yet to completed, tourists from the around the world flock to admire Gaudi’s magnificent masterpieces. But make sure to get there early; lines typically go around the block.

La Pedrera - Another one of Gaudi’s exceptional creations is the stunning, stone-like building of La Pedrera. You’ll fall in love with the ocean wave curves and the pale stone color.

Museu Picasso – Located in the Gothic Quarter, this museum houses a massive collection of Pablo Picasso’s greatest artworks. Inside, drop by the room that showcases his rendition of Velázquez’s Las Meninas.


If art and music call your name, check out Miro foundation with its contemporary art; the Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, Europe’s only Pre-Columbian Art museum; and the Palau de la Musica Catalana which features all things music, and allows visitors to tour the hall given no concerts are in session.

Shop
Passeig de Gracia – Shopping is what the ritzy avenue of Passeig de Gracia is all about. Barcelona’s famed boulevard showcases big names like Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, and impressive modernist architecture.

Las Ramblas – Bustling Las Ramblas also satisfies the appetite for enjoyable shopping. Known as Barca’s most famous street, it offers a special flair of kiosks, caricaturists, colorful markets and more. Come at night when the place is brimming with even more energy. While you’re there, pay a quick visit to The Gran Teatre de Liceu, the city’s historic opera house.

Sleep
Hotel Claris – Take a walk through history at this 19th century palace located near the Passeig de Gracia. This eclectic property stands out from the rest with its exotic trove of century-old archaeological and antique pieces. The interior is dotted with Egyptian carvings, Roman sculptures, Turkish kilims and etchings from Napoleon himself. Inside each room, you’ll actually find an original piece of Roman, Egyptian or Hindu art. Not to be outdone is the rooftop terrace with its smart East 47 Tapas Bar and breathtaking vistas of the city.

ME Barcelona Hotel – “Everything is possible” at the uber-chic ME Barcelona Hotel in the 22@district. At this seductively glamorous hotspot, guests can discover contemporary furnishings, panoramic city or ocean views, and extraordinary amenities such as 32” flat screens and remote-controlled dark-out curtains. The hotel also hosts equally-stylish restaurants, like DOS, offering exquisite Mediterranean cuisine such as decadent lamb shank and foie gras. Enjoy a glass of Spanish red with bread bathed in olive oil, and follow this by a stop to the adjacent bar to enjoy some electrifying DJ music.

See this magnificent city on a River Cruise!
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