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First Person Account: Cuba, a People-to-People Adventure

on Mon, 01/05/2015 - 12:49
Dee in Havana, on her Cuba trip

President Obama surprised a nation last month when he announced that after over 50 years, the US will restore diplomatic relations to Cuba. Back in 2011 he eased restrictions to allow very limited travel options to Cuba under locally hosted, tighly regulated people-to-people programs to promote education about Cuban culture. Our own Dee McConnelll had just returned from just such a trip, a yacht cruise to Cuba that we offer in our Marketplace, when President Obama made his announcement.

While the embargo will remain in place pending congressional action and travel to Cuba will remain limited in the immediate future, there is a lot to be optimistic about. Here Dee shares her own experience of Cuba, a country and culture that should be opening up to curious Americans in the coming months and years.

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Family Fun in the Swiss Oberland

on Tue, 12/23/2014 - 15:40
Thun, on the Swiss Oberland Untour

What could be a better place for family travel than Switzerland? And our Swiss Oberland Untour, tucked into the most beautiful stretch of the Berner Oberland, offers something to delight everyone in your party, the young and the young at heart.

Alpine peaks: All of these are special in their own way, but some have made an effort to be welcoming to children with super playgrounds. Two of the best are at the Stockhorn, the Niederhorn and Beatenberg.

Ballenberg Open Air Museum: Ballenberg above Brienz brought the different styles of architecture from all over Switzerland and rebuilt them in a beautiful setting. It also has live demonstrations of traditional crafts and animal husbandry.

Bern: Visit the namesake bears, see the famous clock tower with its animated figures, and hear the Cathedral Tower with its huge bells. Visit the beautiful small zoo called "Dählhölzli" along the river Aare. Take the little funicular up Gurten (tram to Wabern from Berne train station) and enjoy a wonderul view on the city from a large children's play area. This is where the locals take their children on a fine Sunday afternoon...

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Wild Monkeys and Other Family Fun in Alsace

on Tue, 12/09/2014 - 10:28
Astronomical clock in Strasbourg, Alsace Untour

Wild monkeys? Why yes. They are among the wild things that make Alsace fun for the young and young at heart! Kintzheim (Monkey Mountain, Eagles’ Castle) promotes itself as the “village of animals in freedom.” The freest animals are the 200 or so Barbary apes living on a fifty-acre forested hill. The monkeys are friendly and interact with adults and children alike along a well-interpreted nature path. You can even get popcorn to share with your furry hosts. Caretakers stationed throughout ensure that the animals are sensitively observed and treated. Interestingly, Kintzheim has a similar climate to the monkeys’ original Moroccan habitat.

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Stargazing and Ferrari Spotting: Tuscany with Teens

on Tue, 11/11/2014 - 08:55
Scott and Carla on the Tuscan Untour

I have always loved to see my children in awe of nature…from trips to the beach as small children, to camping in Yosemite as older children, to climbing the rocky coast of Maine as adolescents. I wasn’t sure that living on a vineyard in Tuscany would captivate my 19 and 16 year olds as some of the other trips had, but Tuscany didn’t let us down. The captivation started as soon as we arrived at our farm on a hot afternoon in July. The pool was a welcome sight for hot, tired travelers. Once refreshed, we gazed at the gorgeous view of Tuscany from our poolside. The blue-green grapes surrounding our poolside perch ripened to purple over the course of 2 weeks and added to the color of the landscape. That same patio that provided such awesome daytime scenery was also our last stop at night to view the stars.

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Andalusia for the first time: Part 5

on Wed, 07/23/2014 - 11:11
Untours staffer Sonia Ratcliffe recounts her experience in Ubeda and Baeza

Here's the fifth installment in an 8-week photoblog by Sonia Ratcliffe about her first trip to Andalusia.

I'm just about halfway through my trip in these pics, taken in and aroud Ubeda and Baeza.

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Andalusia for the first time: Part 4

on Wed, 07/16/2014 - 11:42
Untours staffer Sonia Ratcliffe recounts her time in Fuente Tojar and Priego de Cordoba

Here's the fourth installment in an 8-week photoblog by Sonia Ratcliffe about her first trip to Andalusia.

My next stops in this adventure are Fuente Tojar and Priego de Cordoba—two of our hometowns in Andalusia!

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Andalusia for the first time: Part 3

on Wed, 07/09/2014 - 09:57
Untours staffer Sonia Ratcliffe shares her trip to Zuheros, Andalusia, via a short photoblog
Here's the third installment in an 8-week photoblog by Sonia Ratcliffe about her first trip to Andalusia.

First Cordoba, then Carcabuey…now on to Zuheros!

The main Plaza with the ruins of a Moorish castle behind. Sadly, we missed the opening hours—you have to keep close tabs on them in Southern Spain!

The main Plaza looking inwards onto the church. Zuheros is a small village with under 800 inhabitants.

A picturesque photo from the winding streets of the white-washed village.

Near dusk over the main Plaza.

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German Beer: A Glossary of Beer Styles

on Thu, 07/03/2014 - 09:00
Beer, a mainstay of the German Untours

Beer! photo courtesy of gina pina, via cc

Brewing goes back to Germanic tribes, and later to monks, so it follows a hallowed tradition. A trip to an atmospheric beer hall or garden is on many visitors’ to-do list when visiting our German Untours, both the Castle Untour and the Rhine.

The secret of the country’s golden nectar dates back to the Reinheitsgebot, or purity law, which stipulated that only 4 ingredients must be used when making beer: malt, yeast, hops, and water.

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Andalusia for the first time: Part 2

on Wed, 07/02/2014 - 11:53
Untours staffer Sonia Ratcliffe shares her trip to Carcabuey, Andalusia, via a short photoblog
Here's the second installment in a 9-week photoblog by Sonia Ratcliffe about her first trip to Andalusia.

After Cordoba, I made my way to beautiful Carcabuey.

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Andalusia for the First Time: Part 1

on Tue, 06/24/2014 - 23:02
Inside the gardens of the Royal Alcazar

I just got back from my first trip to the Andalusia region of Spain and, instead of writing a lengthy description of my travels, I wanted to just show you my favorite pictures from the trip! This week, we'll start with my first stop in Andalusia—Cordoba.