Culinary cooking tour Tuscany

Culinary cooking tour Tuscany

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Florence (d)

Arrival Florence, where your tour escort will welcome you. Transfer by private coach to your Florence hotel. Afternoon walking sightseeing tour of Florence, to see the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and the Duomo Cathedral with Baptistery with its world famous carved bronze doors. A visit to the Academy of Fine Arts is included, to admire Michelangelo’s ‘David’. Welcome dinner in a nearby local restaurant.

Day 3: Florence (b,d)
Morning at leisure. Afternoon we have cooking lessons from Mrs Donatella. She is not only a superb cook but she is a historian as well, specialized in Gastronomy. She is the author of many cooking books and books about the history of Italian Gastronomy! With her we will cook a dinner from the Renaissance Period:
Coste i sedano con salsa alle erbe
Tortelli di Michelangelo
Faraone all'uva
Cippolline in agrodolce
Conchiglie di lattuga con insalata ai pinoli
Composto di frutta

Day 4: Florence (b)
Today we recommend to visit the olive farm in the neighborhood of San Gimignano, where an in house expert will inform you about the nuances of oils & vinegar’s and about the way it is produced and used In the Italian Kitchen. We will continue to a winery in the Chianti region, near San Gimignano. Optional picnic lunch here! We offer wine tasting (total four different wines) with a generous selection of canapés of; salami, ham, finocchiona, bread with fresh tomatoes and fettunta. Spend some time in the remarkable town of San Gimignano, famous for its many towers and intimate atmosphere.
Back to Florence. Dinner on your own.

Day 5: Badia Coltibuono (b,l)
After breakfast we travel south, to Podere Le Rose a delightful ‘’borgo” in the municipality of Gaiole di Chianti. It is a beautiful 13th century casa colonica ( Italian farmhouse ) typical of the Tuscan countryside in the heart of the Chianti Classico Hillasied. It is a renowned Florentine school of Italian cookery and wine. Participants cook and eat dishes prepared simply and expertly using fresh, natural ingredients. Today we prepare and eat as delicious lunch.
On to Coltibueno, for 2 nights accommodation. Dinner tonight on your own.

Day 6: Badia Coltibuono (b,d)
Today we explore Coltibuono, a very well known small town. Originally a medieval Benedictine abbey, - Abbey of the good Harvest! - now the Villa and prestigious wine estate of the Stucchi-Prinetti family. Here we arrange another cooking course, called Tastes of Tuscany and you can eat it all yourself. The cooking school is called the ‘Villa Table Cooking Class’ at the Villa itself. The chef of the Cooking Class is in charge himself and with pleasure he will share this specialties. Including wine from the estate from the Stucchi-Prinetti family estate.

Day 7: Siena (b)
After breakfast departure for Siena, considered the most Tuscan town of Tuscany. We will visit to day a Parma Ham factory or cheese farm factory, where you will get a clear explanation of how the ham or cheese is produced and what makes it famous! After check-in into your hotel, walking guided tour of Siena, with the most beautiful square of Italy, the Piazza del Campo , where every year the Palio horse race is held. In Siena you will see, why the famous ‘terra cotta ‘color is so typical Italian! Afternoon tea with Panforte, the sugar cake with almonds, honey and candied melon. We can try to arrange to have somebody who will tell more about the history of the panforte.
Dinner on your own tonight in a local restaurant.

Day 8: Siena (b,d)
Morning at leisure. After lunch we head for another great day of cooking! Not far (North of Siena) is the Castello Vicchiomaggio at Greve in Chianti region the castle’s unrivalled setting surrounded by the beautiful Chianti Hills, is breathtaking. Learn the secrets of Tuscan and Italian cooking lessons and demonstrations are run by the chefs of the Castle Step by step they teach you how to prepare traditional home style recipes selected from those handle down through generations thus offering an authentic and unique taste of regional cooking.

Day 9: Rome (b,d)
After breakfast we depart for Rome. On the way to Rome we stop to visit the Castle of Brolio, owned by the Ricasoli family. They found the ideal blending to make Brolio wine with the combination of Sangioveto, Canaiolo and Malvasia grapes. Or visit the cheese farm of Pienza, also located between Siena and Rome. Rest of the day free in Rome. Fare-well dinner in Rome. We suggest to have dinner at the restaurant ‘Scoglio di Frisio’, a Napolitana di Roma restaurant, located in a grotto. A five course dinner is included, with wine and coffee. Life Italian music is included too.

Day 10: departure (b)
After breakfast departure for the airport of Rome for your flight back home.

Farmers Tour Holland Springtime

Farmers Tour Holland Springtime

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Amsterdam

Upon arrival Schiphol Airport you will be met by your Ruijs tour leader and transferred to your hotel in Amsterdam. Take a leisurely canal boat ride through the center of Amsterdam, cruising some of its 60 canals and 1000 bridges. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Amsterdam

Day 3: Amsterdam (b,d)
After breakfast a guided tour to Volendam and Marken will be offered. Lunch on your own. Then on to the Open Air Museum “De Zaanse Schans”with its many interesting houses, windmills and public buildings from the 17th and 18th century. Back to hotel Amsterdam for dinner and overnight.

Day 4: Amsterdam (b,l,d)
Get an early start to Aalsmeer, home of the largest flower auction in the world. Afterwards visit of cheese farm where we will have a real Dutch cheese lunch. Continue on to Keukenhof for a tour of the spectacular gardens. Rice table dinner at an Indonesian restaurant and overnight in Amsterdam.

Day 5: Amsterdam (b)
After breakfast we drive to Lelystad in the Flevopolder where we will learn about land reclamation at the museum “New Land”. In the afternoon visit a research center for cattle breeding and where they can show you the robot milking technique. Continue on to the P.A.G.V. agricultural research center. Return to Amsterdam overnight. Dinner on your own.

Day 6: Maastricht (b,l,d)
After an early breakfast we will go south for a visit of a slaughterhouse. Afterwards we will go to ‘De Kleine Aarde”, an environmentally safe agricultural center in Boxtel. Tour and lunch will be provided. On the road to Maastricht after lunch we will visit the artificial insemination center for cattle. Dinner and overnight in Maastricht.

Day 7: Maastricht (b)
In the morning we will have a city tour and then some time at leisure to explore the beautiful city Maastricht and to have lunch on your own. After lunch we will visit a trout farm en route back to our hotel in Maastricht. Dinner on your own.

Day 8: ‘s-Hertogenbosch (b)
After breakfast we will go to the village Vught near the old charming town ‘s-Hertogenbosch for a visit to the artificial insemination center for pigs, followed by a pork breeding and fattening farm in the neighbourhood. Afterwards lunch on your own and the rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner on your own. Overnight in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Day 9: The Hague (b)
We will spend the whole day in the industrial city Rotterdam for a visit of “afvalverwerking Rijnmond’ which is focused on an environmentally safe way to treat waste. Lunch on your own. In the afternoon we will pay a visit to a water purification plant in the neighbourhood of Rotterdam. Transport to The Hague for dinner on your own and overnight.

Day 10: The Hague (b,d)
After breakfast we will go south to the province Zeeland and visit the ‘Delta Works”. Lunch on your own in one of the picturesque fishing villages in Zeeland. Late afternoon arrival back at the hotel for farewell dinner party and overnight.

Day 11: Departure (b)
This morning its time to say Good Bye and leave Holland and Belgium behind. We depart for the Airport of Amsterdam for our flight back home.

Food and Wine tour of Tuscany

Food and Wine tour of Tuscany

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Florence (b,d)

Morning arrival in Roma and meet tour driver and Ruijs tour escort. Transfer to Florence (170 miles approx. 3,5 hrs drive). Check into your hotel in the afternoon. Rest of the afternoon time to settle in. Welcome dinner at local restaurant. Overnight in Florence.

Day 3: Florence (b,l)
After breakfast you will start with a guided city walking tour of Florence, visit the Duomo, see the Ponte Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti. During the tour everybody will enjoy the fresh roasted chestnuts from the street vender. Lunch at local restaurant (no drinks included). Afternoon visit the Academia to see David, the symbol of youthful but well-mastered force and a perfect example of Michelangelo’s humanism. After the visit stop at a gelato shop and taste the wonderful flavors. Remaining part of the afternoon free for shopping. Dinner on your own.

Day 4: Florence (b,l)
Morning visit Badia a Coltibuono winery 12 acres situated in the Monti in Chianti (1 hr south from Florence) They make use of highly advanced vinification technologies selected with the objective of producing wines of high quality in The simplest but most efficient way possible. Native yeasts are used in fermenting the wines. The maturation of the wines in wood is carried out mostly in casks to ensure that oak does not dominate. Taste their wine and olive oil. Lunch with wine will be served at the winery restaurant.
Afternoon visit Castello di Brolio winery ( a 20 minutes drive. One of the oldest wine producers in the world, situated in the heart of the Chianti Classico region of Italy. Chianti wine like other Tuscan wines has been produced since Etruscan times. Chianti wine experienced a major decline at the end of the 18th century as did Italy itself but enjoyed resurgence due largely to the effort of Bettino Ricasoli. The Brolio vintage 1841 became the standard for today’s best Chianti and the “Brolio Ricasoli” label is one of the most prestigious.
Tour the winery and have a wine tasting. Return to Florence. Dinner on your own at Florence.

Day 5: Florence (b,l)
Morning visit Castello Banfi winery in Montalcino with 7,100 acres of which around 2,400 are planted with vines. You will learn about the Mariani family proprietors of Castello Banfi and their award- winning Super Tuscan and Brunello wines. The winery is built partly above ground and partly underground and contains over 300 stainless steel tanks and 2,000 French oak barriques, plus traditional Slavonia oak casks. The total storage capacity of the winery is over 12 million liters. Tour the winery, have a wine tasting and visit their Balsameria.
Enjoy a 3 course lunch of Chinghiale ( wild boar) with wine at the Taverne Banfi at the Castle Poggio alle Mura. Time for shopping at their enoteca and visit the glass museum. If the time allows stop in the 14-century fortified hill top walled town of Montalcino for a little sight seeing and a bit of shopping. Transfer back to Florence and dinner on your own.

Day 6: Florence (b,d)
After breakfast enjoy an excursion to Siena (1 hrs drive), you will first visit a cheese factory at a nearby farm. After the visit join a guided walking tour, visit Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Pubblico and the Duomo. Afternoon have a cappuccino and a bruschetta at one of the many cafes that ring the Campo. Rest of the afternoon free time. Before the transfer back you will enjoy ‘high tea’ featuring panforte. Transfer back to Florence
Dinner at Florence pizzeria restaurant (pizza and a cannoli, no wine) nearby the hotel.

Day 7: Florence (b,d)
Morning visit Pisa (1,5 hrs drive) you will see the leaning tower which is both a bell tower and belfry. This white marble tower, 189 ft high, was begun in 1173 in a pure Romanesque style by Bonanno Pisano and completed in 1350. The tower slowly began leaning in 1178 and has continued to do so a rate of between 1 and 2 millimeters a year. The movement is caused by the alluvial soil on which the tower is built. Return and have lunch on your own in Florence
Optional cooking demo class.
At 07.00 pm transfer to Castellina in Chianti,
Farewell dinner will be served at Albegaccio in Castellina (40 min from Florence), Mario Schwenn owner of Villa Dievole winery will be our guest host for dinner and will describe his wines and grappa during dinner.

Day 8: departure (b)
Transfer Florence to Rome.

Historic WW II tour

Historic WW II tour

Day 1: London
Arrive at London airport. Check in at your hotel. Afternoon orientation tour of London by coach with professional local guide. Welcome dinner.

Day 2: London
Breakfast seminar about the role of UK during WW II, followed by a city tour with focus on WWII London. Make a stop at St. Paul's Cathedral and see the book which lists every airman killed while stationed in England. In the afternoon we will visit the Imperial War Museum, which houses authentic examples of World War II weaponry and an exhibit of World War I trench warfare. Then we proceed to the Churchill War Room, part the underground nerve center of Britain's war effort. Dinner in London, followed by theatre visit.

Day 3: Portsmouth
We leave London on the way to Portsmouth. In Hendon, view an array of historic aircraft at the RAF Museum and the Battle of Britain Museum. In Portsmouth, we will visit the award winning D-Day Museum. Dinner and accommodation in Portsmouth.

Day 4: Caen
Breakfast, visit Royal Marine Museum, see Nelson's HMS Victory. If time permits, we'll visit the British Naval Museum. At 2:45 PM we board the cross channel ferry. Dinner is served on our way to Le Havre. We will then board our coach and travel to Caen, or surroundings for accommodation.

Day 5: Caen

After breakfast at the hotel, your specialized guide for the day will come to your hotel for a brief introduction. Then our tour begins where the first shots were fired, at the crucial Pegasus Bridge. Then we pass the British and Canadian Beaches, Sword, Juno and Gold on the way to the guns at Longues-sur-Mer, the battery against which HMS Ajax scored perhaps the luckiest and most accurate hit of the war. We'll see the evidence that remains. After lunch we will view the Tapestry and Cathedral of Bayeux which commemorates the Norman conquest of England in 1066! Called the Battle of Hastings. Mathilde, the wife of William the Conqueror depicted the battle while her husband was fighting overseas.

Day 6: Caen
Again an expert local guide will join us for the day. We will spend the morning at Omaha Beach where the Americans took the German fortifications after a stupendous fight. Losses were especially high in the first wave of landings. Today the American Cemetery stretches along the bluff. We will study the battlefield; cross the beach, analyze the maps and imagine the courage that saved our freedom that day. We will also pay our respects at the hundreds of crosses and stars of David for the deceased. Point-du-Hoc is a sheer cliff some forty meters high where the elite Ranger Force scaled the German breastworks on D-Day. We will spend part of the morning there, trying to fathom how they did it. In the afternoon, we'll visit Ste.-Mere-Eglise, taken by the American Airborne on D-Day. We’ll stop at the Paratrooper Museum as well.

Day 7: Paris
On the way to Paris we will view the Bridge at Troarn, the D-Day objective of the 3rd Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers. We arrive in Paris by noon. Tour members can join the group in exploring the city, or make their own way. In the afternoon, before check in at the hotel, we will visit the area around the Eifel Tower and Les Invalides which houses Napoleon's Tomb. The evening is free, with easy access from the hotel to Notre Dame, the Tuilleries and the louvre. Dinner in a local restaurant in Paris and accommodation.

Day 8: The Ardennes

After breakfast departure for the Ardennes via Reims. This is where Hitler put everything he had into his only counter-attack. On December 16, 1944, Lt. Lyle Bouck was one of the first people to see the German columns coming on. We'll make our first stop in the Ardennes at Lanzereth, the town where Bouck and a platoon of 19 men held off a full strength German SS Battalion for an entire day. We'll visit the American positions and hear their story, a breathtaking tale of heroism. On December 17, 1944, the second day of the offensive, the Germans had several breakthroughs and many Americans surrendered near the town of Malmedy. Outside the town, the leading SS Panzer Division lined up about 150 GIs and fired at them point blank. Less than half escaped alive. We will view the site of the massacre and the American Memorial at Malmedy. From there, it is a beautiful drive through the Ardennes Mountains to our evening lodging.

Day 9: Luxembourg
In the morning drive to Bastogne where the Americans rallied and stopped the German attack. Here we'll view the route of the initial American retreat and the place where the 101st Airborne and elements of the 10th Armored held off fifteen German divisions for six days. Our tour escort will take us through the sites in the picturesque town. We'll also see the Memorial to the troops and the Battle of the Bulge Museum nearby. After our visit, it's a short ride to Luxembourg and Hamm where we'll see the American cemetery and General George Patton's grave. He rests among his men in a cemetery as beautiful and moving in its own way as the one at Normandy.

Day 10: Arnhem
After breakfast we travel north. First stop will be in Margraten, in the south of Holland, where all the American victims of World War II, killed in the Netherlands are buried. We will bring flowers to show our appreciation and respect. On our way to Arnhem, your tour escort will inform you about the Operation Market Garden, the only attempt by the Allied torces to strike directly to Berlin. Control of the bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem would mean British armored forces on the far side of the Rhine, with an open road to Berlin. Enroute to Arnhem, we'll view the film "A Bridge Too Far." In the afternoon we will see the bridge at Arnhem and your tour escort will explain the desperate three days that the British 1st Airborne held it. Then we'll visit the Airborne Museum at Dosterbeek, housed in ‘Huize Hartenstein' where General Urquhart's (Commander of the 1st British Airborne Division) headquarters in September 1944. 'Huize Hartenstein' now houses the airborne museum, devoted to the Operation market Garden. It contains memorabilia of the parachuting of the airborne tours in the Oosterbeek area. General Urquhart's headquarters has been reconstructed in a cellar. If time permitting, we continue to Oosterbeek to the Airborne Cemetery of the Allied troops who fell during the Battle of Arnhem. Dinner and accommodation in Arnhem.

Day 11: Amsterdam

After breakfast on to Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands.
If you travel during week days, and if we arrive early we suggest visiting the Dutch flower industry in action at the world largest flower market, the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. In a building approximately the size of a 100 football fields many different kinds of flowers are traded many of which arrive in the florist’s shop throughout Europe on the very same day. Upon arrival in Amsterdam, we start the day with a city tour of Amsterdam by coach, the capital of the Netherlands and with a local professional guide. The town was founded in the Middle Ages and has many historical buildings. You’ll see the most important sights such as Dam Square with the impressive Royal Palace and New Church, Waterloo square, Flower market and the Skinny Bridge. We will visit during the tour Anne Frank House, where the Jewish refugee wrote her famous diary during WW II. After this visit we will board a private canal boat as Amsterdam is best seen from the water sight! The city is comprised of 70 islands which are separated by nearly 50 miles of canals and connected by more than a 1000 bridges. We explore the city on a narrated canal excursion, passing gabled warehouses, arched bridges and colorful house boats. Afternoon free in Amsterdam. Fare-well dinner in a typical Dutch restaurant.

Day 12: Departure
After breakfast transfer to the airport of Amsterdam. Flight to North America.

Agricultural Tour Holland and Belgium

Agricultural Tour Holland and Belgium

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Amsterdam (b,l,d)
Arrival in Amsterdam where you will meet your tour manager. Transfer by private coach through Holland’s most colorful springtime attraction, the bulb fields. Visit Frans Rozen, a flower cultivator, where you will be guided through the flower exhibitions and receive a detailed explanation as to the growing process. Here you will also have the chance to purchase and ship bulbs and flowers. Have lunch in a local restaurant and continue to Keukenhof Gardens, where you will have the opportunity to see the largest collection of Bulb flowers in bloom in the world. Return to Amsterdam for a late afternoon canal boat ride to relax and enjoy the sights of the city from the water. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Amsterdam (b,l,d)
Depart early this morning to the flower auction in Aalsmeer (closed Sat & Sun), not only the largest flower auction in the world but also one of the largest auction halls! Afterwards travel the short distance to Zeewolde to visit farm fields where crops are planted on land reclaimed from the sea. Hear about this project and preparations needed to make the land productive. Return to Amsterdam for the rest of the afternoon in the city to visit museums or go shopping. Dinner and overnight in Amsterdam.

Day 4: Maastricht (b,d)
This morning travel eastwards. Stop at a dairy farm in Drunen where you have the opportunity to tour the facilities and taste the farm fresh products. Visit Castle Heeze, a 17th century castle located in small village in the province of Brabant. Tour the Castle with the “Castle Master” before continuing further south. Once in Maastricht, visit a vineyard where a local white wine is produced. The landowners will explain the wine making process and show you the facilities before giving you the opportunity to taste the product. Have dinner in one of the many pubs in this old town, founded in the Roman Times. Overnight in Maastricht.

Day 5: Bruges (b,l,d)
Start the day with a walking tour of the city to include the St Servatius Cathedral, the medieval city walls, the main square and the Church of Our Lady. In the afternoon you will travel first to Brussels to visit the private garden of Dr. A. de Clercq. This garden is focused on the cultivation of rhododendrons, azaleas and cherry trees. Then continue on to Bruges, the well-preserved quaint medieval town. After a short walking tour of the city you will have some time to browse and purchase typical Belgian souvenirs such as lace and chocolate. Dinner and overnight in Bruges.

Day 6: The Hague (b,d)
This morning drive back into Holland and take the ferry over the river east Scheldt, pass through the restored medieval city of Middelburg and continue through Zeeland to visit the Delta Works, the man-made dike that protects the mainland from the North Sea. Visit the museum and join a facility guide for a tour of the dams and an explanation on the ecological aspects of the project. (Experts that worked on the Delta Project were sent to China to provide advice on the daming of the Yang Su River). The last visit of the day will be to Delft to visit a ceramic factory where the famous Delft’s Blue is made. Continue to The Hague for dinner and overnight.

Day 7: The Hague (b,d)
Join a local guide for a tour of Holland’s “government city” this morning. Highlights of the tour include the Parliament Buildings, the Peace Palace, the many embassies and the Prison Gate. Afterwards, visit Holland in Miniature at Madurodam. Have lunch in a local restaurant and then proceed to Kinderdijk, where 19 of the original windmills remain. These windmills were used to pump the water from the land to dry out this part of the country and provide more dry ground for the Dutch people to inhabit. Visit one of the windmills and tour the area. Enjoy some free time exploring the shops around the market square before returning to The Hague for a farewell dinner in the seaside resort hotel the Kurhaus.

Day 8: Departure (b)
Transfer to Schiphol airport for your flight back home.

Gardens in Tuscany

Gardens in Tuscany

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Montecatini (b)
Arrival in Florence. Transfer to your hotel in Montecatini (suggest Hotel Minverva Palace) or the Medicivilla in Vinci. The Villa is in the middle of a beautiful estate, and dates back to 1596! You will stay for 7 nights in the hotel. Afternoon to Florence. Introduction of the city with the high lights and the visit of the gardens of the lilies, symbol of Florence (please note only possible end May beginning of June) and the Boboli garden. If time permitting, a visit to the garden of Palazzo Corsini al Prato (private garden). This garden can be visited on day 5 as well! Welcome dinner at the hotel.

Day 3: Montecatini (b)
After breakfast departure for Lucca, and visit Lucca and the gardens of Villa Marlia in Lucca and the gardens of Villa Garzoni in Collodi. Have some free time in this picturesque typical Tuscany town. Villa Marlia was belonging to the sister of Napoleon, famous for its green theatres. Villa Garzoni, the garden of the beautiful villa Garzoni, was created in 1633 and is so special because of the steep hillside completely decorated with flowers and fountains. The writer of the story of Pinnochio was playing here as a young boy and the place inspired him to write the story. That’s why he chose Collodi as his writers name!

Day 4: Montecaini (b,d)
After breakfast we leave the hotel again for some more interesting visits. Today we will visit the Medicivilla’s. We start with a visit of the Villa Pertraia and Villa Castello. Villa Petraia: information of Petraia dates back to 1364 when it belonged to the Brunelleschi family, then later to the PallaStrozzi family and afterwards the Medici family. In the time of the granduce Ferdinand the garden was planned by Tribolo. Villa Castello is very near by Petraia and as well designed by Tribolo, both gardens are famous from the paintings of the Medici villas and the paintings of the Venus on the Shell and the Springtime by Boticelli were made for this Villa. Lunch at the Villa Artimino and then a visit of one of the most important workshops of ceramic which is an important item in the Italian garden. If you wish, we can organise a workshop, and each participant can make their own small ceramic vase or pot with Tuscany design.

Day 5: Montecatini (b)
Full day at leisure for independent sightseeing. The coach and Ruijs tour escort are staying with you. This day can be used for an in-depth visit to Florence, combined with a visit or dinner in San Gimignano.

Day 6: (b,l)
Focus today is on the Chianti area, famous for its gardens and wine! Visit of Greve, the castle of Uzzano (private garden) with beautiful renaissance garden. Picnic lunch in vineyards is included, as well as a visit to the wine cellars Antinori.
Optional: Italian cooking lesson tonight!

Day 7: (b)
Another day full of highlights. We start this morning with a visit of Siena, followed by a visit to the gardens of Cetinale (private garden). The garden of Cetinale is now belonging to an English family. Lord Lambton, once constructed for the cousin of the Chigi-pope Alexandro VII this garden dating back to the 17th century with a very long cypress lane going up to a chapel on the hilltop. Spend free time in the Pearl of Tuscany!

Day 8: (b,d)
After breakfast we will visit Fiesole, followed with a visit to the Gardens of the Villa Riposo dei Vescovi (private garden). We will end the tour with a visit to Parco Pratolino with the famous 16th century statue of Giambologna of the “Apennino”. Visit to Parco Pratolino which was made for the Granduce Franceso I de Medici, the park was originally a fantasy park of the 16th century with a lot of big statues, in the 19th century the Russian family Demidoff converted the park with the English style but fortunately the famous statue and masterpiece of Giambologna the “Apennino” was not demolished. Some free time left for last minute shopping. Farewell dinner at local restaurant.

Day 09: (b)

Needle work Tour

Needlework Tour

Day 1: Amsterdam (d)
Arrival at Amsterdam airport where you will be met by your tour escort. Transfer to the city for a short canal boat ride and a visit to the Anne Frank House. Check into your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day free. Dinner and overnight in Amsterdam.

Day 2: Amsterdam (b,l)
After an early breakfast visit the Flower auction in Aalsmeer in the largest auction hall in the world. Then drive to the Keukenhof gardens (only open in April and May) to see all the flower bulbs on display. Afterwards drive to a restaurant overlooking the Kaaglakes for lunch during which a talk will be given about embroidery. After lunch drive back to Amsterdam and visit a shop that sells many folkloristic materials which are used in the Dutch costumes and are very nice to use in quilts. Rest of the day free time. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Amsterdam.

Day 3: Sneek (b,d)
First drive to Marken, the former island in the Zuydersea, where they used to wear interesting costumes. Here you will visit a shop with materials used in these costumes. Then on to Schagen to visit an exhibition of mini-quilts. Then on to Hindeloopen, a picturesque town in Friesland. Friesland is the Northern Province where they have their own language and culture. Stroll through the town with the tiny houses, the bridges and the museum with decorated furniture special of this region. Also visit the shop with special folkloristic materials. Finally on to charming city of Sneek for dinner and overnight.

Day 4: Apeldoorn (b,d)
From Sneek drive to Staphorst where the people still wear their costumes. They belong to a very strict religious sect and have peculiar traditions. From here to Oldenzaal to visit the factory “t Paapje” where they produce typical Dutch materials. Then on to Apeldoorn and if time permits visit the Palace “ ‘t Loo”, summer residence of King William and Queen Mary of England. Dinner and overnight in Apeldoorn.

Day 5: Maastricht (b,l)
Travel first to Arnhem and visit the Open Air Museum. Here you can see many old farms, workshops and windmills and you will get a good impression how the Dutch used to live in former days. Also see the beautiful collection of Old Samplers made in the 16 and 17th century. A typical Dutch pancake lunch will be included. Then on to Groesbeek to see a workshop where a lady embroiders icons. She imitates the painted icons with thread and needle and the results are beautiful. Then drive to Maastricht, the most southerly city of the Netherlands. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Maastricht.

Day 6: Maastricht (b,d)
In the morning a city walk to see the city walls, the St. Servatius Church and the Vrijthof square. Afternoon free for shopping. Maastricht is a very lovely and quiet city which many Americans like better than Amsterdam. Dinner and overnight in Maastricht. At night we can arrange a lecture about patchwork and quilting with the machine.

Day 7: Breda (b,l,d)
Drive to Geldrop in the province of Brabant this morning and visit the Weverij Museum. A home cooked lunch will be ready at a private farmhouse. The family will receive you as if you will be home. During the lunch a lady will come to talk about the special Brabant costumes. Part of these costumes were large white bonnets made of lace and embroidery work. The ladies can even fit them on and have their picture taken. After this lunch to Breda where you could visit the Permin company specializing in needlepoint designs and patterns mostly made in Denmark. Or you could visit a store specialized in quilting materials. Dinner and overnight in Breda.

Day 8: Breda (b,d)
This morning drive to Bruges for a guided tour and visit to a lace factory. Early dinner in Bruges and then return to Breda for overnight.

Day 9: Amsterdam (b,d)
In the morning drive to Wouw and visit the Silk museum. Then drive to Kinderdijk to see the collection Old windmills. Climb in one and see how it works. Finally drive to Delft and visit a Delftware factory and the beautiful Market with the Renaissance town hall and the New Church where all members of the Royal Family are buried. Continue onto Amsterdam for your last dinner and overnight.

Day 10: Departure (b)
Transfer to the airport for your flight back home.

Romantic Castle Tour Germany

Romantic Castle Tour Germany

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Rothenburg (d)

Arrival at Frankfurt airport. You will meet your tour leader and coach driver. After leaving the airport we drive to our overnight castle in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In Wertheim you will have the opportunity to enjoy your lunch at a local restaurant (not included). Wertheim is a town that lies at the foot of a mighty fortress. After lunch you will leave for one of the oldest towns on the “Romantic Road”, Rothenburg. It overlooks four ox-bow bends in the Tauber river from its rocky crag. As well as being old, the town is both picturesque and unspoiled. Check in at the heart of the medieval town at hotel Eisenhut, which exists of four patrician houses from the 15th and 16th century, which will ensure a host of nooks and crannies. No room is the same and each room has its own individual character. You will have a welcome dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Rothenburg.

Day 3: Rothenburg (b)
After breakfast a local guide will take you on a walking tour. You will see the town hall and the Baumeisterhaus, a renaissance house where steps on the gables serve as pedestals for dragon motifs. You will continue to the Herrngasse where you can see the mansions of formally well-known personages line this busy street and you will visit the Burggarten with the chapel, which has been turned into a war memorial. Lunch will be on your own. The rest of the afternoon you will have time to shop or visit e.g. the Museum of Medieval Justice. Medieval attitudes towards crime and dissidence are reflected in this museum. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel Eisenhut in Rothenburg.

Day 4: Koblitz (b)
In the morning you will follow again the “Romantic Road” to your next castle in Wernberg-Koblitz. You will make a stop in Nuremberg. Nuremberg is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Germany. In Nuremberg we visit the Castle (Kaiserburg), the symbol of the city, the castle stands proudly on a sandstone outcrop a little to the north. In the afternoon you will visit the Sebalduskirche and Dürer’s House. You will follow your way to Koblitz. Overnight in hotel Burg Wernberg. This XIIth century historical site in Bavaria, fully restored with all modern comforts, offers you a romantic and unique setting for your stay. Perched on a hill and flanked by feudal turrets, the castle will astound you with its gothic rooms, its gourmet restaurant Kastell, its regional restaurant Burgkeller and its elegant salons. Dinner on your own and overnight in Koblitz.

Day 5: Baden-Baden (b)
After breakfast you will leave for your next castle in Baden-Baden. We make a stop in Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe is one of the ‘new towns’ designed on a geometric plan in the 18C by the princely building enthusiast of southern Germany. In Karlsruhe you will visit Schloss Karlsruhe. Having once dozed off in the depths of the Hardt forest, the margrave at the time is said to have dreamt of a city laid out in the shape of star at the centre of which his palace stood: Karlsruhe. The construction of the palace is very closely linked to the founding of the city by Karl Wilhelm in 1715. Quite unique is the selection of a terrain in the heart of woodland that offered sufficient space for a palace, gardens and a town. After the visit we drive further to Baden-Baden, sheltered between the Black Forest and the Baden vineyards. It is the most luxurious German health resorts of which the latest asset is the Caracalla-Therme establishment. In Roman times the Emperor Caracalla came frequently to Baden-Baden to cure his rheumatism. Check into Schlosshotel Buhlerhohe. This Castle hotel is situated in one of the most attractive landscapes in Germany. Embedded in an 18-hectare castle park, the Schlosshotel presents itself as an "island of repose" at the heart of the Northern Black Forest. Dinner on your own and overnight in Baden-Baden.

Day 6: Bad Rappenau (b)
In the morning you will have a guided city tour of Baden-Baden to see the main sights such as the Lichtentaler Allee, Friedrichsbad, Stiftkirche and the New Castle. After lunch (not included) you will leave for Heidelberg. You will enjoy the scenic roads along the Neckar River to the old University town. In the afternoon a local guide will show you the main sights of the city and you will visit the Castle. A visit to the Great Vat cannot be missed. This colossal cask with capacity of 211,726 liters (48,780 gallons) was installed in the reign of Charles Theodore at the end of the 18C. Wine can be drawn from it with aid of a pump in the royal banqueting hall in the ladies wing. The overnight is in hotel Schloss Heinsheim. The family Freiherr von Racknitz has owned Schloss Heinsheim for 290 years. You have comfortable rooms and there is a romantic restaurant and it has a baroque chapel. Dinner on your own and overnight in Bad Rappenau.

Day 7: Bad Rappenau (b)
After breakfast you will visit the Castle in Schwetzingen, the Schloss was rebuilt in 1700 as a Baroque Palace complex with three wings. It has a charming Rokokotheater built in the mid 18C. and the 178 acre park was laid out stage by stage and is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of an 18C park in Europe. In the afternoon time at leisure at Heidelberg for shopping. Dinner on your own and transfer back for overnight in hotel Schloss Heinsheim in Bad Rappenau.

Day 8: Rüdesheim (b)
Today you will leave Bad Rappenau, for Mainz. This city is Germany’s largest and most important wine market. A local guide will show you Mainz. You will visit the cathedral, this is an enormous reconstructed Romanesque building – a basilica with two chancels, one in the west, leading off a wide transept whose crossing is illuminated by a fine Rhenish dome; one in the east of simpler architectural style. Enjoy a delightful journey through the Rhine River Valley. In the afternoon you will visit Rüdesheim, a wine town. Rüdesheim has become the most popular tourist center in the whole valley, with its narrow streets. You will check into hotel Krone Assmannshausen. It stands on the Rhine as if painted there, the small towers, spires and wooden balconies creating the impression of a castle or mansion from the old days. The oldest part of the castle is over 450 years old. Dinner on your own and overnight in Assmannshausen/Rüdesheim.

Day 9: Rüdesheim (b,d)
In the morning you will enjoy a Rhine cruise to see the Lorelei Rock where legend says a blonde nymph lured passing sailors into perilous waters and rocks. This river route is laced with lovely villages, beautiful churches, lofty mountainside vineyards and grand, historic castles. You will cruise from Assmannshausen/Rüdesheim to Bad Salzig. From there the coach will take you in the afternoon to the Moselle river, you will visit Bernkastel-Kues. Bernkastel-Kues is situated in a famous wine crowing area. Apart from the wine, which may be tasted in many specialized cellars, smoked eel from the Moselle is the delicacy of this area. Bernkastel boasts the largest single vineyard in Germany spread over the slopes. The grapes, 95% of the Riesling variety, produce a dry white wine of which the most sought-after is the fruity Bernkasteler Doktor. See the color-washed houses, most of them half-timbered and the St. Michael fountain. Back to Rüdesheim. Time at leisure before you enjoy your farewell dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Assmannshausen/Rüdesheim.

Day 10: Departure
After breakfast departure for the airport of Frankfurt, for you flight back home.

Romantic Christmas Tour

Romantic Christmas Tour

Day 1: Departure

Day 2: Rothenburg (l,d)
Arrival at Frankfurt airport. You will be met by your tour leader and coach driver. After leaving the airport we drive to our overnight castle in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We make a stop in Wertheim for a lunch at a local restaurant. Wertheim is a town that lies at the foot of a mighty fortress. After lunch you will leave for one of the oldest towns on the “Romantic Road” Rothenburg. It overlooks four ox-bow bends in the Tauber river from its rocky crag. As well as being old, the town is both picturesque and unspoiled. Check in at the heart of the medieval town at hotel Eisenhut, which exists of four patrician houses from the 15th and 16th century who will ensure a host of nooks and crannies. No room is the same as the next and each room has its own individual character. We will have a welcome dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Rothenburg.

Day 3: Rothenburg (b)
After breakfast a local guide will take you on a walking tour. You will see the town hall and the Baumeisterhaus, a renaissance house where steps on the gables serve as pedestals for dragon motifs. You will continue to the Herrngasse where you can see the mansions of formally well-known personages line this busy street and you will visit the Burggarten with the chapel which has been turned in a war memorial. Lunch will be on your own. The rest of the afternoon you will have time to shop or visit the Museum of Medieval Justice, medieval attitudes towards crime and dissidence are reflected in this museum installed. And you will have ample time to stroll along the colorful open air market, with an overwhelming offer of ornaments, decoration, handcrafts and typical German specialties like Gluhwein ( hot and spicy wine) and German kuche (Cookies!) and gingerbread. Of course we visit the shop of Mrs. Kathe Wholfahrt, which is open the year round and has branches in the USA! Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel Eisenhut

Day 4: Salzburg ( b,d)
In the morning you will follow part of the “Romantic Road” to our next destination the romantic city of Salzburg, so connected with Mozart! In Salzburg we will relax the rest of the day. Time to enjoy the lovely Salzburg Christmas Market, with dozens of stalls with beautiful woodcarvings and artistic creations of ceramic, glass and metal. Also enjoy here the local delicacies, like roasting chestnuts, wine, sausages and freshly backed pastries. Dinner in a local restaurant and overnight in Salzburg.

Day 5: Salzburg (b)
After breakfast we enjoy a half day walking city tour of Salzburg, with a local professional guide to see the highlights like the Schloss, Getreide Gasse and the old Town. A visit to Mozart’s Birth house is included. Afternoon optional ‘Sound of Music ‘ excursion. Rest of the day at leisure to enjoy this intimate Christmas Market. Dinner on your own.

Day 6: Munich (b)
After breakfast we board our coach again for transfer to Munich, the Fun capitol of Germany. If you wish, we can make a stop in Dachau, northwest of Munich (approx. 12 mile). Dachau, the former concentration camp where so many people died during WW II. Originally designed for the detention of German opponents of the Nazi regime, the camp was soon flooded by tens of thousands of deportees, the majority of them Jews of diverse nationalities. See the barracks where the prisoners lived. Also see the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant sanctuaries set up in commemoration of the many prisoners who died. After our check in, a local guide will come to the hotel for a city tour. See the Marienplatz with Glockenspiel, the Church of our Lady, the Nymphenberg palace and the Food market. Visit also the pinakothek quarter, the world famous art gallery, containing a sublime range of Europe paintings from the 13th until the 18th century. Time to feel the great atmosphere of just another great Christmas Market, in Munich called: Munich’s Christkindlmarkt (Christ Child Market). Enjoy the shopping, entertainment of live performances, drinks and food. Dinner on your own.

Day 7: Munich (b,d)
After breakfast we visit to the Schloss (Castle) Neuschwanstein in Fussen, approx. 75 miles from Munich. This fairytale castle with countless towers and light lime stone, is built by mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria. King Ludwig was an admirer of the composer Richard Wagner and built the castle after he had seen the Wartburg in 1867. This is the castle that inspired Disney to build the castle of the Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland! We will have a guided tour in the castle (takes approx. 35 minutes) to see the singer’s hall, minstrels’ room with covered ceilings, throne hall, private and official apartments and gardens. Ludwig lived here only for 170 days, as in 1886 he was dethroned by the government. Back to Munich for some free time. Fare well dinner tonight in the famous Hofbrauhaus, including 1 big pint of beer!

Day 8: Departure (b)
After breakfast departure for the airport of Munich, for your flight back home.