Dubrovnik is Croatian city on the very southern tip of Croatia, just north of Montenegro and across the Adriatic from Bari, Italy. Dubrovnik is split into two parts: New Town, the modern part of town with swanky hotels and restaurants, and Old Town, the beautiful walled part of the city that stars as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones starting in Season 2 (it was filmed in Mdina, Malta in Season 1). Both are worthy of your time.
Welcome to Dubrovnik!
With crystal clear green water and warm temperatures from May – early October, Dubrovnik has been a popular European and Russian vacation destination for decades, until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when Dubrovnik sustained significant war damage. Rebuilt and open for business since the early 2000s, Dubrovnik is back as a major vacation player and home to two busy cruise ports. Rick Steves famously named Dubrovnik “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” As a result of its newfound popularity, tourists are flocking to the city in droves and the Old Town can get crazy busy, especially during the height of summer. If you haven’t yet been to Dubrovnik, you’ve definitely “missed the boat” on this exotic destination, but its still a city worthy of a few days, especially as part of a larger Croatian or Balkan itinerary.
Dan and I took a full day tour to the Napa Valley from San Francisco with Max’s Wine Tours. After scouting out a number of tour companies, we went with Max’s Wine Tours because it seemed to encompass the most winery visits (and therefore the most tasting). The tour was quite expensive, at about $175 a person not including lunch or tastings (which cost at least $20 a person per vineyard). Be sure to consider this when budgeting your day! Needless to say, this was quite the expensive day…
The tour started with Max’s colleague, Evan, collecting us in a large SUV promptly at 8:45. We then picked up two other tourists (tours are max 6 people) who we got along with quite well. Next, we were on our way to the Napa Valley (about an hour drive), where we stopped at 4 wineries and in St. Helena for lunch. The tour was fun, our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about wine & the Napa Valley, and the Napa Valley is just gorgeous. However, I have to say after visiting a number of major wine producing regions in the world, the Napa Valley is my least favorite. Sorry Napa! [I feel like this needs a caveat. Napa is gorgeous and there is significant opportunity to try fantastic wine. However, Napa is also very commercialized and expensive. A $25 dollar tasting in Napa may only be $5 for similar quality wine in Mendoza or South Africa. If we were to go back I would probably try to get a hotel in Napa, drive myself and visit two vineyards per day- Dan].
The tour started with a visit to Honig Vineyard and Winery. Honig is a family vineyard and winery that started in 1964 and grew from there, specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Today, Honig is quite recognizable and uses a cute bee theme! At Honig, Dan and I both ordered the sampler, which included a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (really good and awesome to compare against the 2012), 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci Vineyard and 2013 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (super sweet!) The tasting was held in an outdoor courtyard surrounded by vineyards. I recommend Honig, especially to visitors new to wine! Honig a good introduction and the location is very nice. All of Honig’s wine were delicious. We did not buy any because they are available on the East Coast.
We really wanted to visit a few wineries during our time in Cape Town but we didn’t want to drive (due to all the tasting we planned to do) so we decided to take a full day tour. There are a lot of options, and we ended up going with Wine Flies, and are so glad that we did. This tour went to 5 vineyards, included all wines, cheese and chocolate tastings and lunch, and only cost about $55 USD a person. Our guide, Riaan, was super knowledgeable and laid back. Really, I cannot say enough great things about this tour!!
Dan and I began our trip to Southern Africa in Cape Town, South Africa! Cape Town is a gorgeous, historical city with so much to offer! Literally, it has beaches, mountains, great food, even better wine, craft beer, so much history, a mix of people and an evolving political climate. Cape Town makes for such an interesting place to visit. Main picture from the top of Table Mountain and below are some more favorites!
Hello! After a far-too-long hiatus, wareontheglobe is back! The postings fell behind due to a two-week vacation to Southern Africa and preparations leading up to it (i.e. clearing my plate at my paying job for the trip!).
As you may have gathered, Dan and I took two weeks and traveled to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe earlier this month. We took this trip as an early 30th birthday celebration for Dan. What a treat, and so worth it!! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the entire trip was amazing! I will be posting a lot about our trip, as so many people have already asked for information about it and how feasible such a trip would be for them. While waiting for the more detailed posts, here is a sneak peak to tide you over!
For starters, we flew direct from JFK to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB or “Jo’burg” as everyone calls it) with South African Airways on a 14.5 hour flight (yes, that was a ridiculously long flight) and then transferred to Cape Town for six lovely days!
Cape Town is a BEAUTIFUL city right on the Southwestern tip of the continent. We sampled delicious, delicious wines in Stellenbosch, hiked around the Cape of Good Hope, bronzed on the beach (as Dan says), saw the famous penguins and took a boat to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Our time in Cape Town was amazing and while we stayed six nights, one with limited time could do the highlights in just a few days. Here are some of my favorites – full post to follow:
After Cape Town, we flew back to Jo’burg (1.5 hours or so) and then transferred to Livingstone, Zambia (another 1.5 hours) to see Victoria Falls for three nights! We split our time between the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of Victoria Falls (or “Vic Falls” as the locals call it) Another wonderful experience, but a bit of an effort to reach, requiring a connection in JNB each way. If you want to visit Victoria Falls, you need to stay AT LEAST two nights and I would recommend longer. There are many activities to do aside from the Falls, including elephant-back safaris, helicopter rides, a walk on the edge of the falls, day trips to Botswana to see the game reserves there, rhino walks, and any dare devil activity you can imagine! Here are a few highlights from our trip – a view of the falls from a helicopter and the Botoka Gorge just beyond the falls. Another full post to follow!
After Victoria Falls, we flew back to Jo’burg, spent a night there at the lovely Bath on 54 hotel and dined on a 10-course tasting menu at Cube Tasting Kitchen. I’ll have to come back to JNB to see the city! Here is a shot of the hotel pool with Jo’burg in the background from our room.
We saved the best for last, ending our trip with a safari near Kruger Park, South Africa. We stayed at the luxurious Vuyani Lodge and saw lots of zebra, giraffes, elephants, monkeys and even two cheetahs! I will be positing more about the safari but here are a few shots! We were so close to the animals!
In short, this was SUCH A FUN TRIP!!! And it was not nearly as difficult to plan and execute as I had imagined! Totally doable! While we took a long, leisurely two weeks, you can do this trip on a shorter time-frame. For example, Cape Town and a safari can be done on 10 days and one or the other could be done in a single week as long as you don’t mind the long flight! Prices were way more reasonable than I expected and everyone spoke English.
I like wine a lot, especially red wine. So on one of my full days in Mendoza, I wanted to tour some vineyards and taste some Malbec! Now, how to go about that… Doing some internet research, I discovered that a number of companies run full-day wine tours from Mendoza, most ranging between $130 and $200 per person. I thought this was a bit pricey, so I did some more digging…and, spoiler alert – that’s the going rate and my tour was totally worth it! Continue reading →
Dan and I visited Mendoza in November on our trip to Argentina! I liked everything about Mendoza, and recommended it as a short getaway to anyone in northern or western Argentina or northern Chile.
Mendoza is in Western Argentina in the Cuyo desert region, and it is the capital of the Mendoza province. The city is a popular spot for wine production and tourism. While best known for wine, Mendoza has a number of adventures for the outdoorsy. Its near the Andes mountain range, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside Asia. There are opportunities to hike, fly fish, partake in extreme sports, etc. But, we didn’t come to Mendoza to be extreme, we came to drink wine, and drink wine we did! Continue reading →
Hallstatt, Austria was our third stop of Eurotrip2014, and Hallstatt was quite possibly my favorite place on the trip! Hallstatt is a tiny village in the Salzkammergut lake district in the middle of Austria, historically known for salt production, and recently known for tourism (and for the knock-off replica in China). I added Hallstatt to our iteniary based on a picture that I saw two years ago on CNN’s travel photo of the day – seriously. Random, but Hallstatt totally lived up to my expectations.
Our trip was quite short – only 24 hours – and it took some effort to get here. Specifically, we left Munich around 1 p.m. and took the train to Salzburg (about 2 hours). From Salzburg, we took a different train to Attnang-Puchheim (about 50 minutes), where we changed again to a local (read: slow) train to Hallstatt. Once at the Hallstatt train station, we took a boat, the Stefanie, across the lake to the town of Hallstatt. This took a grand total of about six hours. Hallstatt was worth it, but the trip can be difficult.
The train/Stefanie dock.
We arrived just as it was getting dark. The boat ride across the lake was beautiful, and I think we all fell in love with Hallstatt on that boat ride. We found our hotel, Gasthof Bergfried, pretty easily, checked in and set off for one of the best dinners of the trip! Note – if you arrive late (like after 6:30) call your hotel and let them know. Hallstatt is very much a morning/day town and most everything except restaurants close at night. We called ahead and our hotel left directions and keys to the room for us.
Now, on to my favorite dinner of the trip! We dined at Gasthof Zauner based on TripAdvisor recommendations. It was delicious. The meal started with complementary bread with two butteresque spreads – a potato-based one and a pimento cheesy one! For mains, I ordered my favorite, the schwineschnitzel, which is pork schnitzel. The schnitzel was so, so declicious here. YUM!! Everyone else got pork medallions in gorgonzala sauce, which was also decision, but everyone agreed that mine was the best! For dessert, we split the famous (and HUGE) Salzburg dessert, the Salzburger Nockerl.
Before dinner, we stopped by the local Spar (a European grocery chain), which must be the best small grocery store in the world! The Spar had a great selection of souvenirs, Austrian candy (including Mozart balls for less than in Salzburg), bacon-wrapped hotdogs and a wine bar with Austrian wine (who knew?!). Yes, a wine bar! I lost Dan for a few minutes, and I found him at the wine bar! The owners were really nice, too!
For our only day in Hallstatt, we woke up early to head up to Rudolfsturm – where my CNN picture was taken! Note, Rudolfsturm is the only lookout point in Hallstatt, but there are several more a short bus ride away. Make sure you know what you are looking for before getting on a bus!
Rudolfsturm is directly above Hallstatt, very close to the entrance of the salt mine (which we skipped). To get to Rudolfsturm, you take a funicular to the top of the mountain.
The entrance is right behind our hotel, Gasthof Berfried, and you can follow the “salt mine guy” (above) to the funicular. To go to the salt mine, continue following the “salt mine guy,” other wise head right up to the Rudolfsturm. Rudolfstrum has an awesome lookout point with great views! For an awesome picture, wait for the tourists to clear out (it will happen!) and take a picture of just yourself at the tip of the lookout!
Rudlofsturm also has a restaurant and outdoor beer garden/tables. When we went the outdoor dining area/beer garden was closed for food due to bad weather, so we just had drinks outside. Prices were pretty reasonable! My attempts at recreating my CNN photo are below! The middle one isn’t bad!
After visiting Rudolfsturm, we walked around town, tried the local Hallstatt Bier, shopped and had a great day!
The second stop on Eurotrip2014 was Munich, Germany (or München, in German) for Oktoberfest, and just because we love Munich! Munich is the capital and largest city in the State of Bavaria in the South of Germany. Munich (and the whole of Bavaria) has a very specific culture, and is very proud of that culture. Think beer, leiderhosen, pretzels – that’s Bavarian! This was my third trip to Munich, and I was very excited to hit a few places that have long been on my wish list, but that I had not previously had time to visit.
Visiting Munich during Oktoberfest is a beast in itself. Munich is extremely crowded and much of the city is focused on Oktoberfest – meaning some attractions will be closed all together, such as tours of the major Munich breweries, or on certain, unspecified days (to allow its employees to enjoy Oktoberfest with family & friends). Weekends are the most crowded. When we visited, we got stuck walking to our hotel for about an hour while the Costume and Rifleman’s Parade passed. It was cool to see, but very unexpected. Most attractions, aside from the brewery tours, will be open for most of Oktoberfest, so if you keep a flexible attitude you will be fine. Also, hotels book up extremely early (AT LEAST 6 months in advance). We booked our hotel in February. Be guided accordingly. You DO NOT want to be stuck at Oktoberfest without a place to stay! I also recommend confirming the opening hours of all must see attractions, tours, etc. before leaving home and buying transportation before arriving in Munich. Trains, planes and buses book up, too!
Enough warning, Munich is a great city anytime, and especially during Oktoberfest! Per usual, our first stop was the Hofbräuhaus for lunch and beer! Hofbräu is one of the large six breweries in Munich (along with Löwenbräu, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Paschor and Spaten), and certainly the most famous in the US. Dan is a big fan of the Hofbräuhaus because they have a lot of pork dishes that are not very expensive. Actually, none of the food at Hofbräu is very expensive – its a solid budget option.
We had planned to go shopping after lunch, but all of the shops were closed on Sunday (take note – all shops in Munich are closed on Sunday). Instead, we checked out another famous beer hall, Augusinerbräu, which is also one of the big six Munich breweries. This was my first visit to Augustiner and I really enjoyed it. Augustiner had an atmosphere similar to Hofbräu, but was decidely less touristy. We drank beers, listened to the band and made some new friends. After Augustiner, we went to bed to prepare for Oktoberfest!
Our other non-Oktoberfest day in Munich was dedicated to the city and its history. First up was one of my favorite places in Munich, the Viktualienmarkt. The Viktualienmarkt is a huge, open-air market in the center of Munich. Its open everyday and contains stalls selling crafts, food, wine, beer, candy, you name it. We shopped around for a bit and lunched on traditional Bavarian food & fancy focaccia sandwiches. The Viktualienmarkt is free to visit and it makes for great souvenir shopping and eating!
After lunch, we had a busy afternoon, two tours and the Residenz…ready, set, go! First up was Sandemans Free Walking Tour, which is a free, three hour tour of Munich that hits all the highlights, including Frauenkirche (inside & outside below, including the Devil’s footprint!), and gives a very decent historical overview. I did this tour on one other occasion and it was good both times. You can make reservations online. Also, you should tip your guides!! We tipped €10/person, but thats up to your discretion.
We left the tour after about an hour and a half to tour the Residenz Museum. The Residenz museum is the former palace of the wealthy Wittelsbach family, who ruled Munich for many, many years (huge influence!). There are many rooms and gardens to visit, and you could really spend hours here! We walked through the palace rooms, but regrettably did not see the Cuvilliés Theater or the Treasury. I guess that will have to wait to 2016! My favorite rooms were the Ancestral Gallery and the Antiquarium (below). I also enjoyed the outdoor gardens, which are free!
After rushing through the Residenz, we had a second tour at 5:00 with Mike’s Bike Tours (adjourned from Sunday due to rain…). The tour started at 5:00, lasted about 2.5 hours and visited a few places that I had been wanting to see, namely the Munich surfers and the English Garden. I had heard a lot about this tour, and was really excited to take it, but it was not that great and I do not think I would recommend it or take it again. The surfers were really cool, though!
Dan hates bike tours…
Pryor loves bike tour guides…
We ended the evening at the Residenz Weinstube, as recommended by our Mike’s Bike Tour Guide. A good choice for inexpensive Bavarian fare!
Here are some final, favorite pictures of Munich. See you in 2016!
Note – this post only pertains to Munich during Oktoberfest – not the actual Oktoberfest. Stay tuned for my Oktoberfest post!
Have you been to Munich? What were your favorite things to do and eat? Any great day trips?
We dined at Schnitzelbank on our final night in Heidelberg. Schnitzelbank is a small restaurant/wine bar in the Altstadt. It is tiny (but oh so charming), so make a reservation. We called the day of and got their final reservation. The specialty is obviously schnitzel! They have schnitzel in veal, pork, chicken and turkey. I ordered the pork in a mushroom sauce and it was very tasty. I also tried the turkey schnitzel in a dijon sauce, and that was tasty, as well (but also not fried – booooo). Dan ordered the schnitzel cordon bleu. That was fried and delicious; Dan won the dinner game! All of the portions were big and came with some delicious sides.
Schnitzelbank is a also a weinstube (a wine bar) with local wine von fass (on tap!)! Schnitzelbank had an extensive wine list and the waiter – who spoke great English – helped us choose some delicious, local wines! To my lovely surprise, reisling can be dry, and red (who would have known?!), and Germany makes some good, red wines that are not super sweet! If you are in the Heidelberg area, you should definitely check out a weinstube! Wine seemed more important to the people here than beer (a change from Bavaria!), and we were happy to participate in the tradition.