Belmond Royal Scotsman, Edinburgh

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If you haven’t yet spent an entire vacation aboard a moving hotel-train hybrid, you’re missing out. The Belmond Royal Scotsman is a once-in-a-lifetime intimate travel experience comprised of private cabins, a cool, lounge-like observation car, and a spa; the train accommodates just 40 passengers and makes great stops along the journey through the Highlands. You can design your own itinerary, choosing from excursions like the Strathisla Distillery in Keith, the Rothiemurchus Estate for some clay pigeon shooting, and of course, an opportunity to explore a giant castle or two in true Scottish fashion, plus much more. This beautifully designed time machine will sweep you off your feet, both figuratively and literally.

New Orleans Jazz Fest for beginners

New Orleans Jazz Fest for beginners


The New Orleans Jazz Festival (known here at Jazz Fest) is my favorite New Orleans event. I love it more than Mardi Gras and all the other NOLA holidays combined. Jazz Fest starts Friday April 27 and runs through Sunday May 7

Jazz Fest is a 2 weekend music festival that takes place each year at the Fair Grounds Race Course. Over 400 musical acts grace the eleven stages over the course of the Fest. I’ve been attending Jazz Fest for a few years now, and I actually stay very close to where Jazz Fest takes place.

But first, some basics. For those who’ve never been to JazzFest, it’s quite a party. Established in April 1970, the 10-day cultural fest, which normally draws about 400,000 visitors, is comprised of thousands of musical acts, delicious Crescent City food and an international crafts fair.

With more than 500 acts scheduled, it’s one of the hottest music tickets of the year. Big names are on the bill, including Moroon 5, Pitbull, Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon, Earth Wind and Fire, and the Snoop Dog, to name a few. 

But navigating the massive festival, which attracts tens of thousands of fans from around the globe for the music, food and crafts, is no Big Easy.

This year the music kicks off on April 27 and runs until May 7,  with the headline events mainly occurring on the weekends. Gates at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course, where the festivities will take place, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., which allows plenty of time to explore all there is to offer. The grounds will have 12 different stages where you will hear everything from jazz to rock to pop to R&B to Zydeco and Cajun. Tickets cost less than $100.00 per day. 

Practical Tips for the Virgin

For the Jazz Fest virgin, the sights, sounds and smells can be overwhelming. With over 70 food booths, the local and international cuisine is a large part of the experience. With numerous options of Cajun and international fare, Jazz Fest offers everything from po’boys, to Étouffée (fish stew over rice), to boudin (a type of sausage), to beignets (like a donut), to muffulettas (a New Orleans submarine sandwich), to gumbo. Even if you haven’t heard of half of this cuisine, try it. 

The top five suggestions from YVGS: the cochon de lait po’boy (juicy, roasted pork sandwiched in between two piece of French bread), the fried shrimp po’boy, the crawfish monica (crawfish pasta in a secret sauce) the pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo (a delicious Cajun stew in a dark roux) and the crawfish bread (bread stuffed with crawfish and cheese). Is your mouth watering yet?

Also mentally prep for large crowds. While you’ll see lighter crowds on Thursdays and earlier in the day, when it comes to big name performances, seasoned Jazz Fest goers typically camp out at the stages several hours prior to a performance.

New Orleans weather is unpredictable and the Fair Grounds tend to be muddy, so bring lawn chairs, an umbrella, and garbage bags, which double as a raincoat and a dry place to sit. The Louisiana heat can be unforgiving, so pack your sunscreen and a hat too.

Do not forget toilet tissue, as you are sharing those port-o-potties with 400,000 others.

To avoid the heavy crowds, walk on the circular horse racing track around the perimeter of the Fair Grounds, and venture out to the grandstands for food demonstrations, art installations, shade and clean restrooms.

While you’re at it, go to the Gospel or Blues tent to discover new bands. Also, get a copy of the official performance schedule and laminate it (the “cubes” schedule- days, times, stages-when they  are released. Remember  the Fest ends at 7 pm, which gives you a chance to venture out into the city and experience the nightlife of New Orleans.

Last but not least, remember to call YVGS for all your travel plannings needs. 

After Dark

There are endless entertainment and dining venues options in New Orleans on a regular evening, but during Jazz Fest you can find an assortment of specials on music, food and of course drinks. Bourbon Street is obvious for a non-stop party atmosphere, but go beyond the Crescent City staple.

“The spirit of the festival doesn’t end at 7 pm. “That energy is transferred throughout the city.”

The Rock-n-Bowl has highly recommended jazz night shows. For a local, New Orleans music scene, Frenchmen Street area, the local version of Bourbon, is an entertainment district within walking distance of the French Quarter in the Marigny neighborhood with the B&B’s. Here, you can hear anything from blues, jazz, blue grass, and reggae. Preservation Hall is another classic venue to hear the sounds of New Orleans, but it is small so make sure you get their early.

As far as food outside the parade grounds, the NOLA tourist board offered up suggestions for three places. First, the Redfish Grill, located on Bourbon; get the BBQ Oysters at this casual dining place. Another casual place is Deanie’s Seafood, located on Iberville, which is a block from Canal Street. Seafood platters are a local favorite at the cozy diner.

Finally, a fine dining option where you can wash off the mud and dust and get into something fancy is Maximo’s Italian Grill. Located on Decatur Street, it’s a great place for pasta or a steak or a rack of lamb.

Hotel bars are also a great option. The classic Carisol Bar in the Hotel Monteleone (bar that looks like a carousel) has been recently renovated and is a must see. The Sazerac bar at the Roosevelt Hotel is another not to be missed. The Burgundy Bar in the new Saint Hotel is a great music venue, with all of the traditional jazz music your ears desire.

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Where to Stay

Hotels close to JazzFest go fast, so book early. The Fair Grounds are about a 10- minute drive away from the French Quarter. Stay here or near Canal Street. The hotel sponsor this year’s Fest is the Sheraton New Orleans, located on Canal Street. A shuttle bus, called the Jazz Fest Express leaves directly from the hotel.

If we cannot find a room in the French Quarter, our  best bet is to look for a place in the in the Garden, Central Business or Warehouse Districts. All of these districts are an easy cab ride to the grounds. Faubourg Marigny is a residential area close to the French Quarter with other jazz venues and bed and breakfast accommodations.

If a bed and breakfast is more your style, we can check out one in the Garden District and French Quarter, like Creole Gardens, Fairchild House or Melrose Mansion.

Melrose Mansion, located on Frenchman Street, is ideal for the music lover.“It’s a gorgeous place to stay.”

 Just call us (615 219-5831) and ask for the JAZZ FEST RATE.

Getting Around

New Orleans isn’t known for its efficient public transportation system. But, for those who have a bit of time, take a ride on its famous street cars. The Canal Street line takes you along 5.5 mile route from the French Market, to the Business District and into Mid-City, where the final stop is the New Orleans Museum of Art. For $1.25, the Canal Street Line takes you just a few blocks from the Fairgrounds Race Track. You can also take the Jazz Fest Express –even if you’re not staying at the Sheraton. It takes you directly to and from the Fair Grounds and has three pickup spots: the Sheraton New Orleans, the Steamboat Natchez Dock and City Park. The city bus system also takes you by the fairgrounds, which is a bit cheaper than the Jazz Fest Express.

Taxis are another viable option. Cab stands are located all over the city, and hotel bellmen are very helpful in getting you a cab. After the Fest, hundreds of cabs line up outside the Fair Ground gates to take visitors all over the city; they have a pretty efficient setup. New Orleans creates a special line from Canal Street to the Fair Grounds specifically for Jazz Fest. 

If you want to party, do not drive. You have too many options to get you where you need to be safely.

Sun Valley: Idaho’s idyllic year-round playground

Half-hidden in central Idaho amid wild gothic mountains and lightly trodden wilderness lies an important piece of ski history.  

Sun Vally became the US’s first destination ski resort when it opened on the eve of the 1936 Bavarian Winter Olympics (the first to include alpine skiing as an event). Today, it still exudes a bright and polished sheen. Chosen as a resort after a long nitpicking search by Union Pacific Railroad scion William Averell Harriman and subsequently publicized by members of the then glitterati, led by wilderness-lover Ernest Hemingway, Sun Valley sported the world’s first chairlift and an opulent ski lodge that quickly became a second home for the rich and famous.

Winter wonderland

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The historic Sun Vally Lodgeis still standing and continues to appeal to a swanky Hollywood clientele. The surrounding resort has expanded and regularly upgraded its ski facilities over the last seven decades, although it remains a refined and handsome place bereft of fast-food joints or ugly condo sprawl. In the minds of its legions of fans (not all of them zillionaires), this lack of hullaballoo is Sun Valley’s primary attraction. Equally alluring is the dearth of lift lines, the well-groomed wind-free mountain slopes, and the soul-enriching winter sun. True, the snow – 200 inches annually – might not be as abundant as it is in Jackson Hole or Aspen but with the largest automated snow-making equipment in the US, it barely matters. Besides, Sun Valley’s long racy runs are groomed so meticulously, you could almost ride a bicycle down them 

The world’s original chairlift, inspired by the mechanics of commercial banana conveyor belts and capable of transporting 400 skiers per hour, is a prized relic and now lives in a museum in Michigan. Out on Sun Valley’s slopes, it has been replaced by more streamlined equipment, most notably the Roundhouse Express Gondola introduced in 2009 which, along with the resort’s other dozen lifts, can cope with up to 30,000 skiers per hour. Another recent innovation is the Dollar Mountain Terrain Park designed to attract families to a resort sometimes erroneously labeled as elitist and pricey. Bargain hunters can look for second-hand ski gear in the Golden Mine Thrift Store and book rooms in economical accommodation such as the Tamarack Lodge, with its indoor pool and outdoor hot tub, or the Lift Tower Lodge, a cute retro motel. Click here to Book now.  

Kickin’ it in Ketchum

Skiing might be Sun Valley’s raison d’être, but it is the small town of Ketchum, one mile to the south, that keeps the place authentic and interesting. Ketchum, which sits at the foot of the region’s biggest ski mountain nicknamed ‘Baldy,’ predates Sun Valley by half a century. It was originally a mining center and later a nexus for sheep transportation thanks to its proximity to the Union Pacific Railroad. As a result, Ketchum retains the grit and soulfulness of a genuine Old West frontier settlement. Of late, its soul has been tempered by a growing cultural streak, inspired perhaps by the ghost of former resident writer, Mr. Hemingway. Numerous galleries punctuate the old-timer shop fronts of Ketchum’s compact downtown and are linked by periodic meet-the-artist art walks in the warmer months. Cultural weight was added in 2008 with the opening of the Sun Vally Pavilion whose free summer symphony concerts have become something of a local legend. At a grassroots level, the town also has an opera house and a nonprofit community theater, the NextStage

 Summer in SV and Stanley

Winter is only part of Sun Valley’s story. After all, this is Idaho, a brutally rugged land of crenelated mountains and cascading rivers that harbors more wilderness than anywhere in the Lower 48. Yes, in summer there are golf courses and a nice stash of posh lodges housing mega-rich tech entrepreneurs, but there is also killer camping, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.

For the true back-of-beyond experience, you’ll need to forge 60 miles north of Sun Valley to the pinprick town of Stanley. Stanley is the kind of community where you arrive at lunchtime and have already met most of the local inhabitants by nightfall. Its fame rests on two pillars: epic fly-fishing on the Salmon River and the best wilderness white-water rafting in the US. Period. Both excursions can be organized through the highly rated Solitude River Trips.

Hemingway haunts

Back in Ketchum, you can retire to more comfortable digs to un-whiten your knuckles afterwards. If you’re on a world tour of Hemingway-once-got-sloshed-here bars, Ketchum, chronologically, should be your last stop. (The famous writer died here in 1961.) The Casino Club (208-726-9901; 220 N Main St) is a local dive bar where the late writer apparently downed a few jars, though these days you’re more likely to share elbow room with tattooed men on Harleys trying to outdo each other on the pool tables. The Pioneer Saloon is another former illicit gambling hall decorated with deer heads and antique guns where you can order anything as long as it’s steak. For a night off from meat, hit Rickshaw a hippy-like shack just off Main Street that does Asian fusion taps. 

Unlike other Hemingway shrines around the world, Sun Valley doesn’t go overboard on its Papa associations: You’ll struggle to find the poignant local cemetery where the writer is buried alongside his fourth wife, Mary, and his granddaughter Margot. Coins, cigars, and bottles of liquor are sometimes left by his simple grave. If you rent a bike you can use the valley’s multipurpose trails to navigate north to a monument honoring Hemingway located near Trail Creek one mile beyond the Sun Valley Lodge. This re-creation of the novelist’s famous visage cast in bronze and emblazoned with the words ‘best of all he loved the fall’ on a plaque underneath inadvertently seems to sum up Sun Valley: an improbable mélange of art, literature, nature, and celebrity subtly molded against Idaho’s dramatic mountain backdrop.

For more information on Sun Valley, see


Historic Downtown Naples: Shopping, Dining, Entertainment and More

Article by Debbie 

Take a stroll along the streets and avenues of Historic Downtown Naples, FL where you’ll find more than 100 unique shops and boutiques, art galleries, theaters and fine restaurants tucked between historic buildings and beautiful courtyard gardens. It’s pedestrian-friendly setting offers a dynamic shoppingexperience that is anchored by the 5th Avenue South and Third Street South districts.

Just steps from the Naples Pier and Historic Palm Cottage (the oldest home in Naples) is the Third Street South shopping district. As you stroll up the street you will find lovely shops and delightful outdoor cafes. The area also has a large number of art galleries; boasting more than anywhere else in Southwest Florida. 

Third Street South has been a hub of fashion and entertainment since the 1930s and has maintained a unique charm that you cannot find in modern shopping developments. On Saturdays they host a farmers market that is brimming with locally grown produce and flowers along side handmade soaps and other craft items.

Thursday evenings are a special treat in the Third Street South district, as the area comes alive with music and entertainment. For information on upcoming events be sure to check with the Third Street Shopping Concierge

As you walk along Third Street South, you absolutely must make time to explore the quaint side streets, between Eleventh and Fourteenth Avenues. You will surely delight in exploring the charming shops, boutiques and restaurants around each corner. If you choose to enjoy Third Street South by car, street parking is available along Third Street South as well as on the side streets.

About a half mile north is the 5th Avenue South District. Complimentary public parking garages are located on 8th Street South between 4th and 5th Avenue and between 5th and 6th Avenue South behind Bert’s Seafood. Street parking is also available all along 5th and on side streets, just be aware that during busy periods of the year those spaces fill up quickly.

Art galleries, theaters, and museums share the old Florida charm with locally owned restaurants and shops all along this distinctively Naples upscale shopping and dining district. There is always something special happening on 5th Avenue South, including art festivals, live music, and holiday events. To keep up to date with all the special events on 5th Avenue, visit the 5th Avenue South Websire

For shopholics, or if you want to cover more ground and don’t want the hassle of parking, head over to the Naples Trolly Depot at Tin City. Purchase a ticket for the Trolley, it makes stops at all Naples major shopping areas including Third Street South and 5th Avenue previously mentioned. Your ticket allows you to hop on, hop off all day long, plus you get the added bonus of a little Naples history along the way. 

Before you head off on the Trolley, peruse the shops at Historic Tin City This charming old Florida waterfront shopping and dining marketplace is one of Naples oldest and most popular attractions.

The Waterside Shops are an more traditional mall with great national stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Apple and Nordstroms in a spectacular setting with water fountains and lush landscaping. They also offer complimentary valet service. Stop at Mercato to stroll inviting streetscapes and explore the shops and boutiques. 

You’ll also find that the Mercato offers great indoor and outdoor dining options. The Village of Venetian Bay rounds out Naples shopping choices. A spectacular waterfront location with high-end retail space specializing in one-of-a-kind specialty stores, the majority of them locally owned. From casual to elegant, the latest fashions can be found here.

When you’ve shopped until your ready to drop, enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the areas restaurants.

Enjoy !!




Every neighbourhood in Montréal exhibits a unique character of its own, encompassed in its historical sights, restaurants, hotels and art galleries, nightlife, parks and people. From west to east there are neighbourhoods that form the core of urban Montréal, before circling outwards. 

Old Montréal

Where historical New France meets the modern world, cobblestone roads intersect with digital art installations and celebrated chefs astutely twist traditional dishes, Old Montréal embraces a unique blend of old and new. Walk along the  Saint Lawrence River Boardwalk, Old Port with views of Habitat 67 and Parc Jean-Drapeau, Bota Bota spa and more. Step back in time in the gorgeous Norte Dame BasilicaChateau Ramezay and Pointe-a’-Calliere Montreal museum of Archaeology and History and leap into the present at the PHI Centre and DHC/ART gallery. Find luxury and boutique hotels along quaint, narrow streets lined with excellent restaurants such as Accords Wine Bar and Restaurant, Le Club Chasse et PecheRestaurant Les 400 Coups, and Tavern Gasper


The heart of Montréal’s entertainment district, the Quartier des Spectacles centres on downtown’s Place des Arts  where world-class music, opera, dance and more grace the stages and festivals take over the streets every summer. Nearby, incredible art, culture and history exhibitions make the Montreal Fine Arts Museum, the Musse d’ art contemporain and the McCord Museum, must-sees. Shop along Ste-Catherine Street and in the Underground City, and find designer-label boutiques, fine dining and top hotels in the Golden Square Mile along Sherbrooke near McGill University. Stop in for a bite and a drink at restaurants and bars throughout the area, from Crescent Street, to Tavern Square Dominion to Toque’


The restaurants, bakeries and shops of Montréal’s Chiniatown bustle day and night, serving up everything from dim sum to Szechuan, ramen to pho, sushi to banh mi. With its iconic red gates installed at René-Levesque Avenue and Viger Street along St-Laurent Boulevard, Chinatown also acts a corridor linking downtown and Old Montréal.

The Village

For decades, Montréal’s Village has welcomed LGBTQ travellers from around the world – it’s not only the hub of the city’s Pride festivities but a hotbed of activity throughout the year. The E’comusse du fier monde , Galerie de I’ UQAM and the Mtl en Arts festival maintain the avant-garde in art, while restaurants and cafés delight with daily new creations, and bars and clubs like Sky, Unity and Cabaret Mado keep patrons happy until after-parties start at Stereo and Circus.


Further east from the Village, the city becomes more residential into Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, yet here’s where several exciting new restaurants and cafés have popped up in the past few years to join the Marche’ Maisonneuve, market on Ontario Street. Ho-Ma is also where you’ll find the Olympic Park, including the iconic Stadium and esplanade, always a busy place for festivals during the summer. And nearby, it’s easy to spend an entire day at the expansive, family-friendly Space of Life complex – home to the Botanical Garden, Insectarium, Biodôme and Planetarium.

Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile End and Outremont

Seemingly forever young and vibrant, brimming with chill clubs and pastoral parks, these neighbourhoods form a kind of trifecta of Montréal cool. Walk up beautiful Mount-Royal and into Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau, shop and eat along Mount-Royal Avenue, and dig into the days of Leonard Cohen or catch the newest bands during POP Montreal  Sip the best lattés and wines, discover local designers at Frank & Oak General 54 and Unicorn, go on a record-buying spree and even go vegan in the most delicious way in Mile End and Outremont. Walkable and friendly, these neighbourhoods make for a lovely day out or a night of indulgences.



4 Days in Munich Itinerary- Things to Do in Munich

Article by David 

 Perhaps wondering if you should visit Munich on your next trip to Europe. The answer is simply YES. Munich is a stunning city with so much to see and experience. The city is one of the most beloved in all of Europe and despite the turmoil it has seen, it has stood strong as one of Europe’s center points for interest and tourism.

As  you  think about a visit to Germany, it should ignite  an inspiration in you. You will learn about the history of a nation that has created so many waves in society.

You will need a week or more to really see Munich, but time is short and there is so much to see in the World, so we’re going to work with the typical visit time of 4 days.This should give you a big enough taste to wet your appetite and leave your memories of Munich as magic. 

Day 1 Munich Itinerary

Today is your first full day in Munich and it’s time for you to get acquainted with the city. While Munich may be one of Europe’s big cities, you’ll find the main area of the city is surprisingly small and easy to navigate.

Take A Free Walking Tour of Munich

Grab yourself a hearty breakfast at your hotel in the morning before heading off to the Marienplatz main square to join up with the Free Walking Tour Of Munich by Sandemans NewEurope. Many people are wary of joining up with these types of tours because they don’t understand how they work. The tours are literally free of charge. They usually last 2-2.5 hours and take you to the most popular areas of the city by a knowledgeable and cheery guide. You’ll learn some of the history of the city, a bit about the Nazi Occupation and some pretty great stories about the people that lived in and built up Munich.

While you are under no obligation to do so, the guides work for tips, so at the end of the tour you just tip the guide and go along your way.  This is the single best way to acquaint yourself with a new city on your first day and it’s highly recommended that you look into  free walking tours in every European city.

Don’t Miss the Rathaus-Glockenspiel

Your tour should end back at Marienplatz just in time to catch the 12pm showing of the famous Rathaus Glockenspiel . Part of the second reconstruction of the new Town Hall, this Rathaus-Glockenspiel dates back to 1908 and performs every day at 11am. During the summer, it also performs at 12pm and 5pm.

Lasting 12-15 minutes, it is a beautiful feat of old-time entertainment and a depiction of a royal wedding. The square will be packed during the performance so be mindful of your belongings as it’s prime time for the pick pockets.

Lunch at the Hofbräuhaus

If you joined the first free walking tour around 10am, then you will be done around 12:30pm. Grab some lunch at one of the World’s most famous beer halls, the Hofbraehaus Serving typical German fare and liter sized beer steins of their own brew. This place is all about the atmosphere as lederhosen clad staff sling beer steins across tables and sweet smiling ladies carry around baskets of freshly backed pretzels. Just remember not to have too many liters at lunch, you have a city to see!

Church of Our Lady Munich

This church is located slightly off the main square and has an interesting story regarding the building of the church. Back in the day, building a church of this size would take many years. Think, 80 years or more, so you can imagine the surprise of the people when this particular church was completed in just 20 years.

Legend has it that the devil himself assisted in the building of the church, giving the reason as to why it was completed so fast. He ordered a church to be built with no windows, so that he could enter the house of God and spread his vile teachings while being obstructed from the light of day. Now, the builders were clever and constructed the back of the church without windows, so when the devil would enter, he would think the church was built without windows.

Much to his surprise, the day it was finished he decided to take a stroll to the front of the church where he discovered massive windows letting in the light from the heavens. In a fit of rage he stamped his foot and disappeared leaving a large footprint in the back of the church. Whether you believe the story or not, it’s worth a visit to to place your foot in the print of the devil.

St Peter’s Church

After you’ve compared shoe size with the devil, head over to the St Peters Church, poke your head inside and then step out the back and climb the tower. If you want to enjoy a view of the entire city center from the tower you must climb no less than 299 steps. Once you reach the top, the panoramic view of Munich’s center makes up for the effort. When the weather is very good you may even catch a glimpse of the Alps in the distance.

There is an entrance fee for the observation deck of 2 euro per person and it is worth it to spend a little loose change for the telescopes that allow many an interesting detailed look at the Old Town once you reach the top.

Day 2 in Munich

Now that you’ve had a taste for some of the old city, take a journey into history to learn more about the people that have lived and occupied Munich. Our Munich itinerary takes you first to the outskirts and then back to the city center.

Visit Nymphenburg Palace

Try to start your day early today by getting to breakfast at your hotel right when it starts. Then head outside and grab the local tram for a journey to the Nymphenburg Palace that is just outside the city center. If you time it right, you will arrive right when the palace opens and you will have the place almost to yourself having beat the tour buses.

We recommend buying the ticket that gives you access to everything on offer, although if your budget is tight or you are short on time, then I wouldn’t miss the main museum exhibits and the stable. No matter which ticket you buy, head straight into the main museum to get a good head start on the crowds. This should afford you an almost undisturbed visit. Just as you make your way towards the stable, you’ll see the buses arrive and can smile enjoying the stable alone as well. The gardens can be visited without a ticket and are worth a stroll.

After your visit, hop back on the tram and head back towards the city center.

Third Reich Afternoon Walking Tour

If the history of the Nazi occupation and rise interests you, then we can recommend that you take a Third Reich walking tour in the afternoon. Just make sure that it ends before 4pm so you have time to head over to the Royal Residenz.

Royal Residenz

The secret to visiting this beautiful museum is to arrive late in the day. Most of the tour groups will have left and there will be very few people wandering inside the museum. You won’t be able to take too much time, but if you arrive at 4pm, you’ll have 2 full hours to walk the museum before it closes during summer hours. We are not lying when we tell you that you’ll have the place to yourself with the exception of the odd audio guide listener.

Walking the hallways without tour groups is an almost haunting experience and something you will experience very few times in your life. Getting there late in the day is crucial if you want this experience. Be sure to buy the full ticket that gives you access to the main museum and the theater.

Dinner at Ratskeller München

Rest your weary feet after a day of exploring in the underbelly of the city. Located underneath the Marienplatz town hall, in the old beer cellars, is the delightful traditional German beer house and restaurant of Rathskeller.  Make reservations the day before and be prepared to enjoy local sausage specialties and a variety of top brewed German beers on your visit. I can personally recommend the German white sausage, Wolwürst that comes with mashed potato salad and kraut. Start with a small beer because you may not get all the food and drink in your belly otherwise! As absolute must on your Munich itinerary.

Day 3 in Munich

You’ve spent 2 days in Munich and only scratched the surface yet it’s imperative that you visit some of the sites on the outskirts as well.

Dachau Concentration Camp

After your morning coffee, hop back on the local transport and take the train out to the Dachau Concentration Camp. It is a 30-minute ride and you don’t need a tour to visit. The camp is well signed with easy walking directions from the train stop into the main camp. While this might seem like a disturbing visit for some people, it is incredibly important that you visit a concentration camp to learn about what happened there, how it happened and why it happened.

Each building is open and has been made a museum giving you an up close look into the life of the prisoners and guards that occupied Dachau during Nazi Germany. It’s a moving experience and you will need the whole morning for the visit so be sure to arrive right when it opens. After your visit, take the train back to 

English Gardens and River Surfing

When you return to the city from Dachau, grab a bite to eat and make your way to the English Gardens. This is the best way to follow up such a contemplative visit as the concentration camp and give you some time to process your thoughts. This park is the epitome of nature in a big city and a fabulous way to get away from the hustle in Munich (it’s a very busy city). Be sure to take a few moments to watch the river surfers catch some waves. Yes, skilled and experienced surfers catch waves in the river that flows through the park.

Alternatively, you could head over to Olympic Park and the BMW manufacturer for a tour if you are looking for something a bit faster paced.

Day 4 in Munich

Munich is strategically places in South Germany leaving you many options for exploring outside the city. The only downside is that you can’t combine them all in one day. Each takes a day and it can be very time consuming if you get caught up doing day trips outside the city. A solid week will allow you to take a couple day trips and see the heart of Munich. In 4 days, you really only have time for one of two day trips.

Take a Day Tour to Neuschwanstein Castle

Just 1.5 hours from Munich you can find yourself at the foothills of the Alps, wandering a tiny Bavarian village with pretzel in hand. The main draw to this area is the fabled Castle of NeuschewaksteinCastle of Neuschwanstein, built by the mad King Ludwig II and completed in 1886. It was a respite for the withdrawn King and after being removed from the throne, he only spent 11 nights in hi beloved castle before he was murdered.

The castle is spectacular, set in a mountain setting and it’s hard to visit without conjuring up thoughts of fairy tales and royal musings. There are several places to view the castle from and people wishing to capture great photos should arrive in the early hours to beat the hoards of tourists that visit the castle. You can visit in one of two ways, take the bus from Munich on your own- it drops you in Hohenschwangau and you then walk up the hill to the castle or take a day tour that will also include a ticket to visit the inside. Unless you are well planned in advance, getting at ticket to visit the inside without a tour or advanced reservation will be nearly impossible in the summer.

Additional day trip options from Munich include a visit to Salzburg, Austria- home to the Sound of Music, the Eagle’s Nest, Regensburg and Nuremburg. Just remember that each one of these will take a full day to experience, so choose wisely and based on your preferences. The only ones that combine are a visit to Dachau and Neuschwanstein on the same day but I personally feel Dachau deserves more time than you will get on a combined trip.

More on Things to Do in Munich

Drink Beer – Seriously, this is why you visit Germany, right? We’re not big drinkers and certainly not partiers but we enjoyed sitting in the brew houses for the atmosphere. Imagine Bavarian music bouncing around the room from the acoustics while German waiters and waitresses serve you dressed in their best lederhosen. The pretzel seller walks around, you grab a bite and drink down some of Germany’s famous brews. It is all about the atmosphere and must not be missed.

Eat Brats– Drinking beer in Munich should be accompanied by a visit to any of the BratwurstHause’s you can find. Throw your diet to the curb and try all of the sausage delights on offer with a little sauerkraut on the side. They also serve an interesting German potato salad if you can manage to squeeze that into your belly.

Basic Information for Visiting Munich

Accommodation– Location is essential to maximize your time in the city. Personally, we prefer to stay near the train station so when we arrive, we can walk a short distance to our hotel and drop our bags. There is a variety of options in the city to suit every budget.

Find Hotels in Munich

Transportation– The city is well connected with public transport, so reaching things that are outside the city center are very easy to do. Any of the day trips you can easily be done on your own by using the local train system as well. Alternatively, you can book group tours at nauseam or even rent a car to explore outside the city. Perhaps Munich can be the start of a German road trip adventure for you?

Currency– Germany is on the Euro and you can access the Euro in a number of ways. If you are arriving at the airport, you’ll find a variety of ways to either exchange cash or withdraw from an ATM in local currency. Within the city and at your hotel you will be able to exchange cash but be careful of exchange rates. Ripping off tourists on money exchange is an age old past time around Europe. Don’t sign anything until you have double checked the rate and sure you are getting the right exchange rate.

You could really spend a solid 7 days in Munich if you take all the day trips and probably still wish you had more time. Be sure to leave time to take in a beer hall and just wander the back streets a little. You’ll stumble upon little markets and hidden wonders along the way that you won’t see if you stick to the main sites.

Planning to visit Munich as part of a Germany road trip? Auto Europe offers competitive rates and the best deals on car rental in all of Europe. 



Two days in Rome itinerary

Article by Sofie 

Two days in Italy’s capital is just enough time to leave you desperate for another taste of Rome’s delicious food and romantic atmosphere.

A two day itinerary for Rome, Italy (and Vatican City!)

Rome is everything you can imagine and more. The peeling ochre facades of buildings with powder blue shutters line cobbled streets, where vespas wind through crowds of chic women and hunched widows with true Roman noses. 

Every turn reveals more trattorias with red and white checked tablecloths serving hearty but simple dishes, their names scrawled on chalk boards to make passersby’s mouths water. Taxi drivers jump out and open the door for you when you reach your destination and olive-skinned police man stand to attention at every turn. 

Here’s my full guide to two days in Rome. Let me know what you think!

Day 1 in Rome

When day breaks, grab a cornetto and an espresso from one of the many coffee bars: Caffe Sant’Eustachio or Caffe Cafe are firm favourites among locals. You won’t find a Starbucks here, and that’s definitely a good thing. Consume standing (you’ll be charged more for a table). This is how the Italians do breakfast.

Walks of Italy’s ‘Rome in a day’ tour

Time is of the essence when you’re on a weekend break, but it’s easy to see Rome’s main attractions in two days if you plan ahead and pack your walking shoes. Take a Rome day tour with  Walk’s Of Italy who have an excellent reputation, in order to maximise your sightseeing time.

All local tour guides , have a impressive amount of knowledge about there city and can reel off dates, names and other information about Rome’s many ancient buildings.  

If you’re not in to being on your feet all day, you can buy Big Bus Tour Tickets online before you go.

First stop was The Colosseum, an iconic symbol of ancient Rome. Once upon a time locals poured in through all 76 arches, but today only two are used.  Tour groups can skip  the queues and enter via the gladiator’s entrance. You can almost sense the anticipation the fighters must of  had felt as they stepped out to face 50,000 spectators.

Mornings at the magnificent amphitheatre were for animal fights, lunchtimes dedicated to capital punishment, and gladiators fought in the afternoon. The depths of the Colosseum are filled with stone tunnels, which were used to build agitation in animals before their performance. Gruesome stuff.

The walking tour will continue to Rome’s ancient historic centre to see the Roman Fourm. 

Here, Rome’s past is so visible that it’s too easy to envision the era that made the city such an attraction for archeologists. Replace the hoards of camera-toting tourists with burly men in togas, and the crumbling formations spring to life. Although actually, the only women wore togas back in the day, were prostitutes!

From here  you will walk past Altare della Patria, a massive white wedding cake of a formation built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

The Pantheon was next, and you will gaze up at the open spherical roof in awe.

You will walk through quaint streets to discover more baroque architecture. Piazza Navona  is an favourite spot. There, you’ll see the church of Sant’ Agnese by Borromini. The Fountain of Four Rivers or (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi ) in the middle of the square has an interesting story. It was built ten years later than the church by Borromini’s rival, Bernini, and the statue is designed to look like it’s recoiling from his fellow architect’s design in horror.

Next a gealto stop and there are 150 flavours to choose from at Della Palma Gelato di Roma. Gelaterias of note are Giolitti and Gelateria San Crispino.

Next was the exquisite Trevi Fountain, where Fellini’s lovers cavorted in ‘La Dolce Vita’. There are 280 fountains around Rome, but the Trevi Fountain is the most famous. Every night, around 3,000 Euros are swept from the fountain. Be sure to toss your own coin in and make a wish – legend has it, that secures your return trip to Rome. It’s a popular spot for proposals. 

All of this exploring will make you work up an appetite , so don’t forget to stop at a pizzeria for rustic thin and crispy pizza with salty parma ham, mushrooms and olives, washed down with an ice cold glass of Peroni. 

Visiting Vatican City

Next, a private transfer from the historic centre across the river to Vatican City, where you will have three hours taking in the vast collection of art in the museums.

One reason to visit Rome if you’re keen on ticking countries off your bucket list is that you can actually ‘do’ two countries in one day. Vatican City is the world’s smallest state, with a population of around 800, just nestled in the middle of beautiful Rome.

The queues are enough to put the keenest tourist off,  but tour groups skip them – another reason to plan ahead.  Inside the museums, you will see some of the most elaborate neoclassical paintings, the Raphael Rooms, ancient sculpture galleries and the stunning Hellenistic ‘Laocoön’. 

There are nine miles of art on display at the Vatican museums so it’s beneficial to have a guide or a plan to hit the highlights, especially if you’re trying to make the most of a short trip to Rome. Lining each side of the long narrow museums are huge windows which spill sunlight into the  halls. 

Your  Vatican experience will end with the crowning glory: Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel. Cameras are banned, as is talking, so no pics sorry!

Outside,  you can  catch the changing of the guards before ending the tour. 

Aperitivo hour

As the sun begins to set on your first day in Rome, it’s time to experience a real Italian Aperitivo hour. Most of the bars around Rome serve tasty snacks to accompany your sundowner. Try Antico Caffe della Pace, or La Bottega del Cafe in Monti. You will quickly learn there’s only one proper order: an Aperol Spritz.

Where to eat in Rome

In the evening, you could roll your sleeves up and take one of Walks of Italy’s pasta making classes, or drop in to an authentic Italian Eatery. 

Did you know that the Ancient Romans used to force themselves to puke during meals so they could fit more in? 

It may have been a long day, but it’s not timeto turn down. Groups of tourists and locals alike congregate at the various fountains like teenagers, and the revelry continues to the small hours. 

Day 2 in Rome

In the morning head to breakfast at Caffe Bianco, and take your time over a saccottino al cioccolato. In Italian, a sacco is a sack, so this translated to “little sack with chocolate”. A chocolate croissant. 

Getting lost in Cento Storico

Your first day in Rome was dedicated to squeezing in as many of the main attractions as possible, so spend the second day soaking up Rome’s true essence.

The three main roads leading to Piazza del Popolo from Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum feed off into some of Rome’s most picturesque streets. The baroque art, earthy leather shops selling handmade bags and vintage boutiques spilling their wares onto the street will keep you occupied for hours. 

Next visit Spanish Steps, the Keats-Shelley memorial and Bernini’s Fountain at the foot of the steps which are all beautiful.

Dinner and nightlife in Trastevere

After freshening up at the hotel take the bus to Trastevere, the bohemian nightlife area for young and old across the Tiber river. Eat at Augusto! Settle down for a huge serving of perfectly al dente rigatoni in a tomato and pork sauce and a fishbowl sized glass of good red wine.

Afterwards, You can in indulge in a quintessential Italian pastime. ‘Fare una passeggiata‘ means to go for an evening walk, inTrastevere’s narrow streets which beg to be wandered. Via della Lungaretta is lined with bars, restaurants and boutiques. Ivy tumbles down from windows and pavement seating creates a buzz in the night air. 

Traditionally, Roman husbands would kiss their wives at the end of each day. But it wasn’t for romantic reasons. It was to check if she hadn’t been necking wine all day!

Rome is definitely a city whose inhabitants take the time to enjoy their life (and of course, their food). You will leave with a deeper understanding of why it’s known as the Eternal City and a niggling need to return.

Where to stay in Rome

There are a number of backpackers hostels and luxury hotels around Rome, it just depends on your needs and budget.

More Rome travel tips

Taxis are expensive so take some time to learn the public transport system before you go.

Never order a caffe latte after breakfast time and if you do order one, don’t drop the ‘caffe’, or you’ll be served a glass of milk.

The Leonardo Express Shuttle from Fiumicino airport gets you to Termini station in 30 minutes.

Only buy gelato at shops displaying a sign that says ‘Artiginale‘ – that means it’s made fresh at the store.

You’ll need to dress modestly to enter the Sistine Chapel. Bring something to cover your shoulders and leave your hot pants at home.

Rome isn’t a coastal city so seafood isn’t a speciality. Instead, order creamy pasta dishes or try a Roman favourite: oxtail stew, or ‘Coda alla Vaccinara’.