What’s Holding Back Your Winter Holiday Choice?

Deciding to go on holiday during the winter can be a bit of a strain for people. That is because winter is so traditionally wrapped up around Christmas and celebrating. It means that there can a be a lot of things that get in the way of taking a break. Maybe you are finding yourself wanting to take a winter break, but something is holding you back? Then read on for some advice that might just help you make that jump and get your winter break booked.

Family

So number one of this is probably family and friends. Are they going to have a problem with you getting away from the holidays? If so, there are several ways that you can deal with that. First of all, you can explain to them that it is your choice and while you gather what they saying it’s not really up to them anyway.

But if you are feeling a bit more diplomatic and like you won’t mind their company so much then why not ask the along too? There are plenty of winter holidays that can work for large groups of people.

You could rent a chalet out in the mountains in France or in Sweden and then all stay together. You can even get one where the catering is laid on for you so, you won’t have to worry about cooking any celebration meals, or the washing up either.

Weather

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It’s funny, but the weather is often the most important part of a choice about going on holiday in the winter. It can actually make or break your decision. This because people want specific weather on a winter holiday.

They either want the sun that they are missing or the snow that symbolizes winter to them. Happily, you can have the option you are looking for, just make sure to check the weather and climate forecast for your intended location before you book.

Cost

Something else that may be holding you back from booking a break where you can have some unique winter experiences is the cost. Winter can be an expensive time with all the presents and celebration to pay for. Adding a holiday on top of that can be a stretch too far for some people.

Yes, you will need to consider your budget before you book a break this winter. But you also need to ensure you are giving yourself enough opportunities to experience the wonderful things you can do on a winter vacation.

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For example, you might want to stay in an ice hotel, or one that is located the tree tops, which you can do in Sweden? Or you may want to visits Santa and his elves and take a ride in a reindeer pulled sleigh? Or it may be the only time that will get to see the magical northern lights. As the are known to be pretty unreliable, especially when we are in a decreasing solar phase as we are now.  Surely something like that is worth digging deep to pay for?

Travel theme: Hills

Whenever I think of hills, the picturesque Eastern Europe comes to my mind. It reminds me of our last road trip before we left Europe in 2014…driving thru the rugged hills and mountains of Dinaric Alps, some with heavy snow and some with endless lush greenery. Those mountains and hills looked more bold and appealing than the French or Swiss or Bavarian or Italian Alps. They are unspoiled and untouched…a bit of scary and a bit of relaxing. Here is to my memory, with some Eastern European hillside…

The scenic highway from Tirana, Albania to Skopje, Macedonia (thru Kosovo)

The scenic highway from Tirana, Albania to Skopje, Macedonia (thru Kosovo)

Scenic highway to Tirana, Albania (from Podgorica)

Stunning road to Tirana, Albania (from Podgorica)

Scenic drive from Sarajevo to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Driving from Sarajevo to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Checking out others’ posts on Travel Theme: Hills

Just finished making this video on our trip to the Islands of Malta & Gozo few years ago, hope it will inspire you to visit these islands by the Central Mediterranean.

Islands of Malta and Gozo – Thru My Lens

If you are planning to visit Malta, Gozo, & Comino, please check out these 2 following links for tips and suggestions.

Valletta and Gozo and Comino

 

Link

Itinerary Florence: the Chianti Wine Route – Discover Tuscany in a unique way

It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful panoramic drives through Tuscany: the Chianti Wine Route. Chianti is one of the oldest and famous wine regions in Italy. This route, the SR222 (Strada Regionale 222) passes five small Chianti Classico towns and is about 100 km’s (62 miles) long. For a long time it was the only road between Florence and Siena.

This winding road takes you along the most spectacular sceneries Italy has to offer. View the typical rolling Tuscan hills filled with tall cypress trees. And see thousands hectares of fertile soil, ready to grow the sangiovese grapes for the divine Chianti wines. Touring the area let’s you experience the true ‘la dolce vita’. Do some wine tasting, try out the olive oils, visit the medieval towns and enjoy the local specialities along the way. These little towns are also perfect for a daytrip from Florence or Siena.

Before you take this trip it’s wisely to book your rental car in advance. Find further information at EasyTerra. Also book a B&B or agriturismo, so you can literally can eat, sleep and drink Chianti. Do remember: it is not safe to drink and drive at the same time.

What’s a Chianti wine?
The Chianti is one of the most sold Italian quality wines, recognisable by it’s Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) Label. It used to be bottled in a typical curved wine bottle in a straw basket (called fiasco), nowadays it’s more and more produced in a standard shaped wine bottle.

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Typical Chianti wines bottles

Image Source: 123rf.com

The red wine is so special because of the use of sangiovese grapes. A minimum of 80% and up to a 100% must be used, supplemented by other grape varieties.

It has a characteristic intense aroma of fruit and flowers. A typical Chianti wine has a soft aftertaste and an intense color. The taste and quality can vary due to microclimates (height and location of the vineyard). The best Chianti’s come from the Chianti Classico region and have an DOCG-status to ensure the best quality.

Florence
Start your road trip in Tuscany’s capital: Florence. Or as the locals say Firenze. With millions of tourists a year visiting, it’s one of the most popular cities in Italy. And no wonder: it’s a perfect mix of history, art and culture. Book yourself a hotel and get lost in the city for a few days. Read more about Florence’s attractions.

After wandering around in Florence, it’s time to get into your car and hit the road: on to Greve.

Greve
Greve is also called ‘The Gateway into Chianti’, because it’s the first Clasico town to come across from Florence. The triangular square, Piazza Matteotti, forms the heart of the town. Each side is surrounded with small indoor shops, galleries and restaurants. There’s a large market held every Saturday.
Each year, around mid September, Greve organises the famous Expo del Chianti Classico. The Piazza gets filled for four days with stalls of all the local Chianti Classico wine producers. A tradition of nearly of half a century! For about €10 you can buy a empty wineglass, which you can refill 7 or 8 times.

If you can’t make it to the Festival, visit Le Cantine di Greve (Enoteca Falorni). Buy a ‘wine card’ for a certain amount and fill your glass with an automatic dispenser. You can choose from over 140 different kind of wines! To learn more about the history of Chianti’s wine culture, visit the Museo del Vino. For some historic sightseeing you walk or drive up (1,5km) to the old castle of Montefioralle, a medieval village nearby. On your way up you will see some great panoramic views.

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Cobbled street in Montefioralle – Greve

Image Source: 123rf.com

Don’t forget to check out the many small shops at the Piazza Matteotti like Antica Macelleria Falorni, an old butcher shop. And try some of the local delicacies. The shop has been there since 1809. And don’t miss La Bottega dell’Artigianato, a shop known for it’s hand-woven baskets and olive wood carved products.
Take a relaxing seat at one of the little bars and watch the town’s life go by.

Panzano
Next stop is Panzano. A little hilltop town situated exactly halfway between Florence and Siena. Due to it’s location is the perfect stop to take a look at the charming scenery of Tuscany.

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View – town Panzano

Image Source: 123rf.com

Take a walk through Panzano’s historic cobbled streets and visit the castle, built at the highest part of the town. The modern market square, Piazza Gastone Bucciarelli, is now a meeting place for the locals. Panzano has quite a few bars and restaurants who offer wine tasting. You can also visit Fattoria Le Fonti and Fattoria Montagliari, just a few minutes drive outside Panzano. At Fattoria Montagliari you can also take a cooking lesson or spend a night at their farm.

Panzano’s main attraction is the butcher’s shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, owned by butcher and chef Dario Cecchini. He’s a lively personality and very welcoming. Across the street is his restaurant, Solociccia, where you can try his famous specialities. He also runs Dario Doc. Make sure to make a reservation!

Panzano also has an annual Chianti Wine festival, Vino al Vino, held on the third weekend of September. Just like the Expo in Greve you can taste several local Panzano’s wine products.

Castellina
Castellina’s Rocca castle is the evidence of once being a strategic strategic headquarters between Florence and Siena. Despite multiple attacks and destructions of the city, the castle is still standing tall. Climb the tower of the castle and get a great view over the town and countryside. Inside the castle is the Archeological Museum of Chianti. Showing all kinds archeological findings from the region from the Bronze Age, Etruscan and Medieval times. Next to the castle, is the Via delle Volte, an arched passage round the eastern part of the city.
Here you can find small artistic and food shops.

Worth visiting is the church of San Salvatore, rebuilt after WW II, and displaying a 14th-century fresco of Lorenzo Bicci. Not far from Castellina’s center is the Etruscan excavation of Montecalvario, dating from the 6th century BC. You can enter the tomb and see four burial chambers facing the east, west, south and north. Some remaining tombs artifacts are shown in the museum.

In Castellina you can also do some wine tasting. Try visiting Gagliole and Villa Trasqua.

Radda
Radda is quite a small village situated upon a hilltop, situated 600 meters above sea level. Surrounded by woods and located between the valleys of the rivers Abria and Pesa. The streets are narrow and mostly traffic free, so you can feel free to wander around by foot. Radda is charming, peaceful, quiet and ideal for a short stop. The ancient city walls, cobblestone alleys and the cities architecture take you right back to the Middle Ages.

Like the Palazzo del Podestà (Palace of the Major), located in the middle of the town. It was almost destroyed in 1478, but it still has the original facade displaying the Medieval architecture. Or visit the Pieve di Santa Maria Novella, this Roman church is considered to be one of the best examples of Roman architecture in Tuscany.

Also visit the Castle of Volpaia, a sandstone castle with a rare dark color. Complete your visit with a glass of wine in it’s winebar. Other great places for wine tasting are: Castello di Albola and Casalvento Winery.

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Radda – View from Castelo Alboa

Image Source: 123rf.com

Gaiole
Gaiole is our last stop of the Chianti Classico towns before heading to Siena. Because of it’s position at the lower part of the valley, it has never been a strategic place like Radda or Castellina. So the Gaiola developed more into a marketplace for the nearby castles and churches.

One of these nearby castles is Castello di Brolio. Take the winding and narrow driveway of the Castello and watch this pentagonal fortress appear. For 8 euros you can enter the castle and gardens (wine tasting included) and enjoy the views of the Arbia valley. In the distance you can see Siena (20 km/12 miles away).
Or visit the Castello di Meleto. Nowadays it’s an hotel and also available for parties. You can get a guided tour at the ground floor of the castle which also has a theatre. At the end you can taste three wines. When you’re a hotel guest the wine tasting and tour are included. It’s the perfect place to spend the night and end your Chianti tour in a unique way!

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Chianti wine route

Image Source: 123rf.com

Holidaying In Sydney In Winter: 5 Fun Things To Do

When the rest of the word waits for the stifling summers to go away and pleasant weather to set in, Australia marvels on the winter season with a plethora of fun things to do, specifically in the sprawling city of Sydney. One of Australia’s biggest cities uniquely divided on either side of the harbor and connected with the world famous Harbor Bridge, Sydney has a lot to offer in winter season.

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Image Source: http://sydneysocial101.com/festival-101-winter-garden-brings-magical-winter-wonderland-to-cathedral-square/

So if you were thinking to get a breather from the summer engulfing the better part of the world and looking for some cool winter essence, head to Sydney and do the following fun things.
Whale Watching
Going to Sydney inevitably implies at least one whale watching session, without which a visit to this city is incomplete. You can hop on to one of the many whale watching cruises, designed especially for this purpose. Whether it is a slow moving vessel meant to relax, stand back and watch the whales in all their intimidating glory or the high-speed vessels that increase the thrill exponentially, options are numerous.
Visit ‘The Rocks’
For tourists with a quirky taste for old style pubs and cafes, historic architecture and arts and craft mini-shops, The Rocks has a lot to offer. During the weekdays, you can marvel on the artistic exhibits of artists from all over the country along with small clothing shops; while on the weekends you can enjoy the Rocks Markets that has up to a hundred stalls of different items from food to crafts to clothing and souvenirs. Totally accessible by a number of transportation options and located centrally, The Rocks is a favorite among tourists to Sydney.

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Image Source: http://firstdegreepr.com/2014/06/30/how-to-beat-the-winter-blues-sydney-style/

Shop at Queen Victoria
Located right in the middle of the central business district, Queen Victoria Building satisfies both the shopaholic and the history buff in you. The building itself is nothing like the typically modern shopping malls. It is rather a 19th century building, designed in the fashion of a cathedral. The typically arched ceilings like those in a cathedral and figurines gracing the entrances, Queen Victoria Building offers a unique shopping experience.

Relax at Darling Harbor
Stroll along the harbor at the suburbs of the Sydney business district and experience the essence of whole of Sydney in this one place. Whether you are in for some shopping, entertainment options, parks, art exhibition centers, museums, hotels and spas, or a peek into the wildlife, you will get everything at the Darling Harbor along with breathtaking views of the skyline of Sydney lining the harbor.
Hit the Centennial Park
Centennial Park will let you soak in the peaceful eastern suburban essence of Sydney along with a lot more. In addition to sprawling and open gardens, Centennial Park also has a number of historic statues and old buildings, and avenues. Also, there is a huge variety of flora and fauna, including rare plantings unique to Australia as well. Visiting Centennial Park is like peeking into the Victorian Era outdoor environment. Visit to Sydney in winters is incomplete without going to this park, which is one of the landmarks of this country.

This is a guest post article from Oz Whale Watching. Book and have a memorable whale watching experience today.

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