Artistic Brilliance Shines in Florence!

We are proud to offer exciting excursions all over the globe, from places deep in the jungle to some of the greatest cities man has ever dreamed to build. We like to share our passion with others so that they can see why we are so invested in the places we go. The world is remarkably big, and there are more amazing sights to see than can be imagined. Today we take a trip to one of the most artistic places in the entire world, Florence, Italy!

The Bargello, also known as the Palazzo del Bargello, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, or Palazzo del Popolo (which translates as “Palace of the People in English”) is a former prison and barracks which now serves as an art museum. The term Bargello is derived from Latin and means “fortified tower” or “castle” and was a term that was applied to military captains of Italy during the middle ages who were in charge of keeping the peace. Because these captains stayed in fortifications such as this one the name eventually stuck to the building as well. The original two stories of the building were finished in 1256 with the third story being added in 1323. In modern times the museum is home to masterpieces by such renowned artists as Michelangelo, Donatello, and Vincenzo Gemito.

The Catterale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower in English, is the main church of the city. Construction of this beautiful building started in 1296 in the Gothic style and was completed in 1436 when the dome was finished and it was consecrated that same year. The outside is lined with multicolored marble panels in numerous shades of pink and green that give the building its beautiful sense of majesty. The cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence. The current archbishop if Giuseppe Betori. The inside of the cathedral is home to some stunning artwork, perhaps none more provoking than the Last Judgment, seen above, that is underneath the dome. There are few places in the world which can rival the beauty of this wonderful monument dedicated to faith.

Giotto’s Campanile is a standalone bell tower that is a part of the Florence Cathedral. The tower was first started in 1334 after the original Master of Works of the Cathedral passed away and was completed in 1359 after the title passed through multiple people’s hands during that period. It stands adjacent to Santa Maria del Fiore, and the tower is one of the finest examples of Florentine Gothic architecture with its design by Giotto. It features multicolored marble encrustations that give it a fantastic sheen and fabulously rich sculptural decorations! The inside houses multiple works of art, including the famous “Euclid” by Nino Pisano!

Florence is an amazing city, with such as rich history in both the arts as well as religious ceremony, it makes a great adventure for anyone wishing to explore a lively city. The architecture can’t be beat, either! We’re so proud to be taking our travelers all around the beautiful country of Italy as a part of our Gay Taste of Italy Tour, which features other such cities as Rome and Venice! For all of the information on this amazing trip, go here.

 

 

Grabbing Pieces of Pizza in Rome!

One of the great things about traveling is the chance to experience different cultures around the world first hand, and there are few better ways to do that then to take a bite of someone’s food. Like music, food is a universal language. We all eat, we enjoy food in vastly different ways, and one person’s supreme meal is another person’s garbage.  I have been doing a lot of research lately when it comes to the highlights of the world, and quite a bit of that time has been devoted to various eateries.

Pinsere Roma is a pizzeria that specializes in something referred to as “grips”, which are small hand held pizzas meant to be enjoyed in a single setting. The experience here doesn’t start with the food, it starts with the people. The owners of the establishment started it on the belief that food can be amazing without being too expensive or taking a long time to prepare, and always with a smile. The service at Pinsere Roma is fantastic, with customers often noting that the warm atmosphere is almost as inviting as the aroma that carries easily to the streets out in front of the eatery. The small storefront is constantly packed with eager customers who are vying to try one of the many combinations in this very popular place. It has consistently been rated as one of the best places to eat in all of Rome!

The pizza here is absolutely fantastic, with a variety that is almost unmatched in the entire world! Customers rave about the fresh ingredients and interesting combinations. One of the best aspects of the pizzas is the crust. It has a doughy quality to it that is topped off with just enough crispiness to melt in anyone’s mouth. One of the more popular pizzas there includes bacon, figs, and the surprising honey! It shouldn’t work, but the skilled chefs are talented at pulling off the unexpected time and time again. Of course, they can do traditional pizza just as well, with their Sicilian Meats pizza being another favorite among customers. Tourists and locals agree that for pizza there is no place better in all of Rome!

Rome is a fantastic city that has many great places to visit. There are landmarks, holy sites, and many places traveler should go on a trip to the city, as well as many other places to enjoy great food beyond the wonderful Pinsere Roma. You can experience all Rome has to offer, as well as other amazing destinations in Italy, as part of our fantastic Italy vacation! For all of the details on this amazing trip, please click here.

Treasured Memories Uncovered in Bratislava!

The world is a big place, and its cities are as diverse as the people who inhabit them. We take a special pride in being able to offer people trips all around the world that pique the senses and dazzle the mind.  Europe has a lot of amazing cities, almost too many to name, that have an amazing history that is unique to them. From religious monuments to castles big enough to boggle the mind, there is something for everyone in the city of the day. Today we go to Bratislava, Slovakia, a city which remembers its past well!

The Church of St. Elizabeth, commonly known as Blue Church, is a Hungarian Secessionist Catholic church which is in the Old Town of the city. The church was built in 1908 and was consecrated to Elisabeth of Hungary, who was the daughter of Andrew II, who herself had grown up in Pressburg Castle. It is referred to as “The Little Blue Church” due to the color of the majolicas, mosaics, and its facade having various blue hues, as well as the blue-glazed roof. It is built in the Hungarian Art Nouveau style with Romanesque double-pillars, which help to give it an Oriental feel to its look. 

Bratislava Castle is the central castle of Bratislava. It is a gigantic rectangular building which features four corner towers and stands on an isolated rocky hill with an amazing view of the Danube River. Due to its prominent location within the city it has been a dominant landmark for centuries. The view is simply breathtaking, providing an amazing view of Bratislava, Austria, and when the weather is very clear, parts of Hungary. It was built in the 8th century originally, however the structure was gutted in 1811 due to an intense fire. Plans were made in the 1930s were made to rebuild it and in 1964 the castle was restored more beautiful than ever.

Slavín is a military cemetery and memorial monument within the city. It serves as the burial ground for thousands of Soviet soldiers who died in World War II while they liberated the city in the waning days of the war from the occupying German army and the Slovak troops who supported the fascist government. It was finished in 1960 and officially opened to the public on the 15th anniversary of the city’s liberation. The following year it became so revered within the country that it was named a National Cultural Monument. Every April 4th thousands gather here, including the president of the country, to honor the soldiers who fell freeing the city from oppression.

There is a lot to love about Bratislava, with its rich history and a culture that shines through in both the landmarks that it houses as well as the people within. There is no reason why you should wait another moment to go and experience it for yourself, and we offer a really great trip to get you there next year with Christmas on the Danube River! For all of the information on this great trip, click here.

 

Amazing Museums in London!

With approximately three weeks before the start of our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars there is a lot to be done and planned before our cruisers begin their amazing journey. Each of our destinations within Europe has an overabundance of great activities and sights to take in before people are whisked off to the next leg of their adventure. This article is here to condense some of the information so that you, the ever busy traveler, don’t have to search all over for ingenious ideas on how to spend your time! Today’s stop is London, England!

The British Museum is a museum dedicated to culture, art, and the history of humanity. The museum opened in 1759 and was largely based on the collections of the scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The architecture of the building draws obvious inspiration from the ancient Greeks, which was a signature design choice of the architect who designed it. The breadth of its collection is staggering, with over 8 million pieces all told! The size of the collection makes it one of the largest in the entire world as well as one of the most varied, with origins from all continents. The departments within the museum include ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, the Middle East, and Asia! One of the most famous pieces that is housed there is the Rosetta Stone, pictured above, which was vital to deciphering hieroglyphics.

The Churchill War Rooms is a museum that is comprised of two portions: the first is the Cabinet War Rooms, an underground facility that was home to a British government command center throughout World War II and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum about the life and times of Winston Churchill. The Cabinet War Rooms were in use from 1939 until August of 1945, when Japan surrendered and effectively ended the Second World War. It was evident after the war that there was historical value to be found in such a command center and the preservation of the site fell to the Ministry of Works before the Department for the Environment took over. The museums opened for the first time in 1984 after years where the sites were not open to the public at all and have since had redevelopments in both 2005 and 2010.

The Wallace Collection is renowned around the world for its wide range of decorative and fine arts from 15th to the 19th centuries. The collection as a whole is split up into 25 large galleries. The museum was established in 1897 with a great deal of the collection coming from the private stores of one Richard Seymour-Conway who left it all to his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace, whose widow gave it all to the nation. The only condition of the act of generosity was that nothing ever leave the collection, even on loan. In total there are over 5,000 pieces now on display, with over 2,000 of that being fine examples of European and Oriental arms and armor! Perhaps the best part of the museum is that admission to this amazing collection is free!

London is a great city with so much history to explore! No matter where you turn there is something fantastic to do there. The museums that were talked about today are just one of the enjoyable aspects of the city! You can enjoy it all as part of the 7 Day Taste of Europe pre-stay as part of our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars! For all of the information on this stellar trip, go here.

 

Going a nautical mile for fun in Southampton!

With approximately five weeks before the start of our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars there is a lot to be done and planned before our cruisers begin their amazing journey. Each of our destinations within Europe has an overabundance of great activities and sights to take in before people are whisked off to the next leg of their adventure. This article is here to condense some of the information so that you, the ever busy traveler, don’t have to search all over for ingenious ideas on how to spend your time! Today we stop in Southampton, England, where ships tell the tale! 

The SS Shieldhall is a preserved steamship that operates from the city and is a major tourist attraction! She was built in October 1954 and weighs in at 1,972 tons! Before she was preserved for tourist purposes the boat was used a sludge boat, going regularly from Shieldhall in Glasgow, Scotland down the River Clyde to dump treated sewage sludge at sea. These types of ships regularly welcomed aboard day trippers and parties or passengers who wanted to tour the ships during these trips down river. To accommodate for this the Shieldhall was given open-crank engines which allow passengers to see all of the inner workings, which according to a lot of the people who visit the ship say is really fun. Those who take the day trip these days are allowed to explore all parts of the ship and people remark all the time just how friendly and welcoming all of the crew on board are. From seeing the engines in action up close to going to the bridge and talking to the captain of the ship, there’s a lot of fun to be had on the SS Shieldhall!

 

 

Titanic Engineer Officers Memorial is, as the name suggests, a memorial to the 35 engineer officers who steadfastly stood at their posts as the Titanic was critically struck by an Iceberg in 1912. The monument was unveiled on a sunny day in April of 1914 where over 100,000 people gathered in remembrance of the brave souls who gave their lives to buy the fleeing passengers precious moments to safely get to their lifeboats. The statue consists of bronze and granite and features Nuke, the Greek Winged Goddess of Victory. Many people visit this memorial yearly, and those that do remark how stunning the display is in person. It serves as a haunting reminder of the tragedy that struck so close to the heart of Southampton a century ago, many of those engineers living only a few miles at most away from the monument, and reminds all who visit of the sacrifice that was made.

Southampton is a fun place to explore with a lot of emphasis on the sea and the ocean, as the above locations indicate. We too are interested in the sea! It is why we are proud to present Southampton and so many other places as part of our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars! Be sure to check out all of the great information on this exciting trip by going here.

 

 

Architectural Grandeur in Lisbon!

We are very proud to offer trips all around the world, and we are invested in letting others see why we are so passionate about the places we go. The world is a very big place, and within it are numerous sights to see that are unique as they are beautiful, historically significant, or both. Here we take a look at Lisbon, Portugal, whose architecture is second to none!

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is a monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome located near the shore. The monastery is considered to be one of the best examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style, which is the splendid building design that adds touches of ornamentation along with maritime elements to structures, in all of Lisbon. It is a World Heritage Site. The building was completed at the turn of the 17th century and soon after Philip of Spain, the ruling monarch at the time, made the monastery a royal funerary monument which prohibited anyone but the royal family and St Jerome’s monks from entering the building. Four of John IV’s (widely known as John the Restorer for his hand in helping the Portuguese Empire reach its zenith by going to war with Spain) children are buried here. These days it is hailed as one of the most popular destinations in the entire city for its beautiful architecture and its rich history.

Belém Tower, otherwise known as the Tower of St. Vincent, is a fortified tower and like the above monastery is a World Heritage Site. The tower was commisioned by King John II so that it could aid in the defense of the Tagus river and be a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It is a porminent example of the Portuguese Manueline style of architecture. Throughout the years the tower has had several additions made to it and has had troops stationed within its walls during numerous conflicts, most notably with France. King Miguel I, who ruled in the early 19th century, used the dungeons to imprison political enemies of his so they could not speak out against him any longer. The tower has been considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal since 2007.

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle which occupies a commanding hilltop which overlooks the historic center of Lisbon and the Tagus River. The fortified citadel has stood since medieval times, and is a very popular tourist attraction in modern day Lisbon! The settlements of the Tagus valley, where the castle is located, date back to the 6th century BC with the hill itself being used in around the 2nd century BC. It was held by the Celtic tribes, the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible location before the Roman and eventually Moorish peoples took control of it. The castle has been integral in resistance efforts over the centuries, notably against the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century.

The history of Lisbon and its beautiful buildings can match anything that Europe has to offer. One of the great things about going on a trip though is that the cities don’t have to compete for your affection, you can see many of them on our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars! For all of the information on this great experience, go here.

Taking in Beautiful Barcelona!

With approximately five weeks before the start of our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars there is a lot to be done and planned before our cruisers begin their amazing journey. Each of our destinations within Europe has an overabundance of great activities and sights to take in before people are whisked off to the next leg of their adventure. This article is here to condense some of the information so that you, the ever busy traveler, don’t have to search all over for ingenious ideas on how to spend your time! Today we marvel at the works in Barcelona, Spain, where the work is Gaudi, not Gaudy! 

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic Church designed by Antoni Gaudi, a revered architect who designed many builds in the city, and is considered his greatest work. Although the building was never completed it is still a World Heritage Site and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated it. The project began in 1882, and the vision Gaudi laid out was a mixture of Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. Upon Gaudi’s death in 1926 the building was less than a quarter complete and even today, nearly a century later, it remains only half way done. The current plan is for it to be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s passing. There has been some debate within the city if this should be so grand as to compete with the city’s cathedral, since the cathedral is the seat of the Bishop. Regardless of what side of that line one might fall on, it is hard to deny Gaudi’s grand vision and the building’s beauty, even in its incomplete state.

Casa Batlló, known locally as Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), is another one Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces. It was redesigned in 1904 by the name and has been refurbished quite a few times since then and is noted for its organic skeletal qualities. A good deal of the facade is made up of a colorful mosaic of broken ceramic tiles that add a vibrant color to the front of the building. One of the more interesting aspects of the building is the arched roof which has been colored and designed in such a way as to represent a dragon. A popular theory is that the rounded feature on the left of the building represents the lance of Saint George which has been speared into the back of the dragon. You won’t find many buildings in the world more visually striking than this treat!

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall designed in the Catalan style by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The building was finished construction in 1908 and it was built for the Orfeó Català, a choral society which was founded in 1891 that was important to the Catalan cultural movement of the time. Since its opening the hall has always given good favor to local composers and artists of the day, believing that this place is a suitable location for burgeoning careers to flourish. The concert hall was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and averages more than half a million people a year who attend the various music performances held there.

The architecture of Barcelona is stunning, and the visionaries behind it leave me speechless with their creativity and the scope of their imagination. Do you want to see Barcelona’s beauty for yourself? We’ve got you covered! Barcelona is part of our 5 Day Taste of Spain Post-Stay at the end of the amazing Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars! For all of the details on this fantastic trip, go here.

Exploring the Bountiful Treasures of Vienna!

We are very proud to offer trips all around the world, and we are invested in letting others see why we are so passionate about the places we go. The world is a very big place, and within it are numerous sights to see that are unique as they are beautiful, historically significant, or both. Here’s a look at Vienna, Austria, where beautiful buildings paint the landscape!

Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence. It is a 1,441-room Baroque palace that has much significance from an architectural point of view. The area the Palace currently occupies was first fenced in on the orders of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in the year 1569. He thought the area would make an excellent area to put game in, such as pheasants, ducks, and boar, in order to serve as the court’s hunting ground. Other creatures were brought in as well and fishponds were built. The name Schönbrunn means “beautiful spring” and came about because of a beautiful artisan well that the court used for water which could be found on the grounds. The palace as we know it today was built in the 1740s during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, who received the estate as a wedding gift. The palace is now owned by the Austrian government, who have gone to great lengths to restore the beautiful palace for its people.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, known as Stephansdom in German, is the church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. The site of the church held two churches in the past before the current Romanesque and Gothic rendition of the building was formed at the behest of Duke Rudolf IV. The site as a church dates back to the year 1147! The cathedral is seen as the most important religious building in all of Vienna, and as such has been witness to many important events throughout the city’s history. Of interest, during World War II the cathedral was set to be demolished by retreating German soldiers but Captain Gerhard Klinkicht disregarded direct orders from the city’s commandant, thinking the building too important to destroy out of pettiness.

Vienna is a fantastic city with many great sites. The history of the city is as beautiful as the buildings within it. We are so pleased to be able to go there as part of our European River Cruises, including the rivers of the Rhine and the Danube! Not only that, but we’re holding a SECRET SALE on them right now! Act now and check out the information about this great destination here.

 

Rocking with Royalty in London!

With approximately six weeks before the start of our Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars there is a lot to be done and planned before our cruisers begin their amazing journey. Each of our destinations within Europe has an overabundance of great activities and sights to take in before people are whisked off to the next leg of their adventure. This article is here to condense some of the information so that you, the ever busy traveler, don’t have to search all over for ingenious ideas on how to spend your time! On the agenda for today is London, England, where something historic greets you every time you turn around!

The Tower of London is one of the most famous and important landmarks in all of London. Dating back to 1066, when the Normans conquered the land, this is a big hit with tourists due to the rich history that can be found within the walls. From the long line of the royal family to infamous prisoners and politicians, if the tower walls could talk they would have much to tell. The tower houses the oldest exhibition in the world, the Line of Kings, which features many pieces of armor from the rulers of the past, as well as the world famous Crown Jewels. You can even visit the Traitor’s gate which was the entrance used to move prisoners into the tower by the Tudors. The Jewel Tower also offers a tour that gives a nice historical account in regards to the many famous people who inhabited the building over the years.

Westminster Abbey is a large, Gothic church located just west of the Palace of Westminster. The site that it is built on first had a church in the 7th century, although the present building as we know it today did not begin its construction until 1245. It is widely regarded as one of the most important religious buildings in the United Kingdom and has been the traditional coronation place and burial ground for British monarchs. An interesting aspect to note is that it is no longer technically an abbey or a cathedral, but rather it holds the status of a ‘Royal Peculiar’ which is a church that is ruled directly by the Sovereign. The coronation of monarchs have been held there for nearly 1000 years! Of course, the biggest recent event to be hosted here was the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.

Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, and is where the Queen prefers to spend her weekends. It has long been known for its association with the British royal family. The castle was originally built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. It has been occupied since Henry I, over 900 years ago, making it the longest occupied palace in Europe! During the English Civil War the castle was used as military headquarters and was an infamous prison for Charles I. It is described as having some of the most lavish staterooms in the world, and is renowned for its beauty as well as the number of state events that it hosts every year.

London is a truly amazing city with enough sights to visit to last weeks on end. Its rich history and stunning beauty are very evident by all of the great landmarks that it has to offer. We’re very pleased that we are taking you there as a part of our Taste of Europe pre-stay which leads into Drag Stars at Sea: Europe Allstars. For all of the exciting details on this fantastic trip, go here.

 

Showing off the Soul of Paris Food!

One of the great things about traveling is the chance to experience different cultures around the world first hand, and there are few better ways to do that then to take a bite of someone’s food. Like music, food is a universal language. We all eat, we enjoy food in vastly different ways, and one person’s supreme meal is another person’s garbage.  I have been doing a lot of research lately when it comes to the highlights of the world, and quite a bit of that time has been devoted to various eateries. Today we go to Paris France, where you can find delicious meat and veggie options for good prices!

 

Balls. I’ll just let you ruminate on that for a second. Has the snickering subsided by now? Fantastic, let’s continue then. Balls has a remarkably simple concept: put food into a vaguely spherical-like blob shape, make it delicious, and then serve it to you. The balls come in five different recipes: beef with persil and onion, chicken with estragon and lemon, lamb with coriander, cumin and pine kernels, pork with fennel and paprika, and finally if eating meat isn’t your desire you can have a veggie option which comes with chick peas. By all accounts every one of the dishes is expertly crafted and delicious, so it is really about choosing what entices you most. On top of the great food their wine menu which is said to be superb as well. The food, while amazing, is simple so it doesn’t take long to prep meaning you won’t be waiting for long for your food, which is always nice. The owners of the establishment are attentive, but not overly so. If you are looking for a little something extra at night the venue doubles as a very trendy bar with all sorts of delicious cocktails and, yes, the meatballs are still available then as well. With a great atmosphere, delicious food, and prompt service Balls is certainly worthy of a venture into.

 

Soul Kitchen, whose name is a lot more boring than the previous restaurant, is a great place to eat in its own right. It is a cafe-restaurant which is run by three spirited and inspired lady chefs. The environment is, in a word, welcoming. It has been described as the type of place you can come in during the morning and have a nice relaxing coffee while reading your newspaper. It isn’t just about the environment, of course, the food is said to be delicious as well. The key to note about this place is, unlike the above restaurant, it is completely vegetarian! The lunch menu is constantly changing with the only thing that remains the same is their commitment to using their homemade recipes that is made using organic local produce. They have a winter squash super which has fried onions in it which has been raved about quite a bit! One of their signature dishes, ‘Granny’s pichade’, is a thick French pizza with pesto and tomatoes and is said to be absolutely fabulous. You can order quite a bit here and it will barely set you back 10 dollars despite the high quality, making this place an absolutely fantastic deal!

One of the fantastic things about a city as grand as Paris is that there is going to be something for nearly everyone. Whether you consider yourself more of a carnivore or you prefer to munch on vegetables, both of these places have a lot to offer without emptying your wallet too much! Of course, places like this are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fantastic city of Paris! Experience it and so much more as part of our 7 day Taste of Europe pre-stay, which leads into our Drag Stars at Sea: European Allstars! For all of the exciting information about this trip, go here.