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Europe

Tips for a First-Timer Visiting the United Kingdom

The UK is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations. English-speaking, prosperous and full of history, it has a great deal to offer. But what should first-time visitors do to prepare for their arrival?

What is the UK?

This is one of those countries, like the Netherlands, which presents a few opportunities for confusion. Indeed, many of the natives might struggle to tell you exactly what the difference is.  There are actually three countries which comprise Great Britain: namely England, Scotland and Wales. A fourth comes in the form of Northern Ireland, to create The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The British Isles isn’t a country; it’s just the name for the landmass.

Public Transport

While the trains and buses don’t meet quite the same standard as set on mainland Europe, they’re still the easiest way for a new arrival to get from one place to another. Car rentals and taxis can be extremely expensive, especially if you’re traveling frequently. For example, the train from Eastbourne is a safe bet for those looking to head to Hastings to check out the battlefield and the beach.

Etiquette

When visiting any new country, it’s worth getting to grips with the local customs concerning etiquette. To begin with, the British know how to form an orderly line, and will take a pretty dim view of anyone attempting to push in. In the UK, the chance of any new arrival causing a serious commotion are fairly small; at worst, you’ll probably get a pointed tutting, or an “excuse me.”

The Currency

The currency is sterling. Notes come in fives, tens and twenties (and, very occasionally, fifties). You might find different sorts of notes if you’re in Scotland. These notes are legal tender everywhere, as Scottish people will never tire of telling you.

The Weather

The UK has a famously temperate climate, being surrounded by water. You won’t get extremes of heat or cold, and you can expect to be rained on at least once, even if you’re heading there at the height of summer.

City or Country?

The UK is quite a small country, especially compared to the United States. As such, you’ll find quite a lot of variety crammed into just a small area. You might use a city as a base of operations, and from there venture out into the countryside. London tends to take the lion’s share of the tourist traffic, but there are other places in the country worth visiting – and you may find that the cost of things in smaller towns is markedly lower.

When to Go

The UK provides plenty of distraction throughout the year. If you’re travelling in summer, then you’ll benefit from the traditional seaside and city breaks – though you should be aware that the prices will rise accordingly. At winter time, there’s more of an emphasis on indoor attractions. Some of the country’s outdoor adventures are best undertaken during autumn and spring. The countryside looks its best at this time of year, but you’ll still get a full day of sunshine.

Europe

Why A Scandinavian Tour Is Your Best Bet This Summer

Scandinavia, the region of Northern Europe encompassing Norway, Sweden and Denmark, has long been touted as a paradise on earth, having the highest quality of life, happiest people and some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. When it comes to travel tours, most people, especially young travelers tend to forget about the region as an option, or intentionally swerve it due to the famously eye-watering prices. However, the region, and the wider Nordic area which encompasses the equally amazing countries of Iceland and Finland, have a huge variety of experiences to offer adventurous travelers. Here’s why you should set yourself off on your very own Scandi tour this summer.

Smorgasbords Of Culture

People often tend to conflate the various Nordic countries together as a homogenous entity, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The closely Germanic culture of Denmark is legions apart from the more Russian culture of Finland, or the Inuit-style culture of Iceland. However, at the end of the day, the cultures of each country are unique to themselves and difficult to compare to anywhere else on the planet. You’ll find vastly different cuisines, architecture, histories, natural scenery and social attitudes throughout Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, and a trip to all five will constitute a cultural extravaganza on par with inter-railing across Mediterranean Europe or road-tripping across the United States.

Easiest To Organize

Although we would never encourage lazy travelling, there’s a lot to be said about the ease and efficiency of travelling through Scandinavia, especially if you’ve experienced travelling through less developed parts of the world. Everyone speaks English, transport and visas (if you need them) can all be done online with amazing ease and user-friendliness, and the countries are all tightly interconnected with ultra-modern infrastructure. In addition, all of the most wired countries in the world are in Scandinavia, so you’re likely to have a strong internet connection wherever you are. This means that if you’re camping out in the Norwegian wilderness or doing a 7-hour train journey from Stockholm to Copenhagen, you’ll still be able to Skype your friends or even play online casino games with bonuses, like Party Casino, from your phone, which you find out more about from here. The fact that you can play online slots from basically the arctic circle highlights just how developed and efficient this region is, and how it’s a safe bet for those looking for a stress-free travel experience. The fact that these are also the safest countries in the world for solo female travelers is also a major plus!

Not As Expensive As You Think

Whenever you mention to friends that you’re heading to Scandinavia, they’re likely to give an eye-roll and start lecturing you about 8 euro pints of beer and how even waiting in line is expensive. However, a little bit of savvy and research can ensure that your Scandi trip doesn’t end up costing much more than anywhere else in Europe. The number one rule is to live like a student and hit up all the great bars, restaurants and venues in the great student neighbors of the Nordic capitals, where prices are often less than half of what you’d pay in the stylish city centers. The region also has a proud reputation for free museums and cultural activities, so do your research beforehand!

 

Europe

5 Historical Dutch Cities Beyond Amsterdam – An Insider Guide

The Netherlands is known for its historical cities with canals, brick houses, gothic churches and locals on bikes. But it’s not just famous Amsterdam I’m referring too. There are many more lesser known cities equally or even more characteristic than our capital. These Dutch off the beaten track cities are all in short distances from Amsterdam – as is pretty much anything in the Netherlands actually – and make the perfect daytrip. Make sure to visit at least one of them to enjoy the typical Dutch city vibe without the crowds.

Haarlem

Let’s start with a close neighbor of Amsterdam. Haarlem is only a 20 minute train ride away from our capital. The city is concentrated around its historic market square and church. Close to the central market square are the ‘Gouden Straatjes’ (Golden Streets) with boutique stores, concept stores and small shops. Two highlights of Haarlem are the Teylers Museum for historical science and the Hals Museum with works of the Dutch painter Frans Hals. One of the best parts of Haarlem are the small courtyards – ‘hofjes’ in Dutch –, most of these green city oasis are open to the public.

Delft

One of our favorite Dutch cities is picturesque Delft. Delft is perhaps one of the most visited cities in the Netherlands, tough it won’t get as crowded as Amsterdam. This small town is famous around the world for its Delftware porcelain, or Delft Blue. We’d recommend you to skip the souvenir shops and porcelain workshops though and go for a walk around the historic canals. You might notice that Delft is quite small for a city with this many churches. One of them – Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) – is famous in the Netherlands for having the Royal Crypt. The first member of the Dutch royal family buried here, is known for liberating the Netherlands of its Spanish occupier. He was murdered in Delft and afterwards buried in the nearest church, starting a family tradition. But there are more churches in Delft, as well as canals, small streets, cheese shops, local boutiques and museums.

Leiden

Leiden is one of the most characteristic cities of the Netherlands – and only a 35 train ride away from the capital. The canals, bridges, brick houses and monumental gates make Leiden one of a kind. The best part of this open air museum is the old fortress on top of a hill overlooking the city. It is free to visit and offers nice views of the city. Leiden is packed with interesting museums as well. One of them has Egyptian mummies on display, another one a huge dinosaur skeleton. Leiden is also a popular place for vintage shopping; our favorites are Flamingo, VNTG and Hartendief. The best espresso bar is small Chummie, Logica serves vegetarian and vegan food and ROOS is known for its instagrammable breakfast.

Utrecht

Utrecht is the fourth city of the Netherlands, but still has a cozy atmosphere. You can stroll around the small streets along historical houses from one canal to another. The biggest one is the Oudegracht where you can rent a kajak to explore Utrecht by water. For quite a different view we’d recommend you to climb the famous Dutch icon the Domtoren. This church tower is actually not connected with the church itself since  a big storm 300 years ago. Utrecht has just as many coffee bars, restaurants, concept stores and hotspots as Amsterdam. We’d recommend Meneer Smakers for burgers, Rachmaninoff for interior shopping, Cupp for coffee and Gys for healthy comfort food.

Amersfoort

This historic city is more to the east of Utrecht and almost one hour by train from Amsterdam. It has one big canal, surrounding the old walled city. Amersfoort didn’t have an actual wall though, but it created houses around the city to make it easier to defend. These so-called Wall Houses are still in place and make you feel like back in the old days. But there are more monumental buildings, ancient churches and old gates. If you’re done with all these brick houses and that Dutch history, you might like to walk to an upcoming part of Amersfoort with new restaurants and bars. It’s called ‘De Nieuwe Stad’ (The New City) and even has a small river beach.

 

Europe Guides

An Insider’s Guide to Mykonos, Greece

*Covid-19 edit: this guide is for bookmarking purposes only, please stay home as we all help to flatten the curve*

Mykonos is a Greek island that is part of Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea. In recent years, it has been getting more and more popular among the rich and famous and also in the Instagram community. Thanks to its bright white buildings, turquoise water, vibrant nightlife, and picturesque streets, it attracts millions of visitors every year.

Mykonos is also a unique destination for fashion lovers. Many known and less known greek designers are present here. Just walk around colorful streets of Mykonos town, the biggest town on the island, and you will for sure find an outfit that will make you look like a Greek goddess.

Getting around

There are year-round flights to Mykonos from Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as flights from various European destinations during the high season. Mykonos is also pretty small, so you can easily get around by moped, taxi or bus.

When to Travel

The main season on Mykonos lasts from May to October, with summer months being more popular. However, if you want cheaper hotel prices and a more relaxed atmosphere you could go in April to early June or late September and October.

Night Life

Mykonos has a well-deserved reputation of being the “the Ibiza of Greece”. Its Scorpio beach club is one of the best beach clubs in Europe. It offers stunning sunset rituals, live music, delicious food and excellent views with a romantic atmosphere. If you are on a budget it can get a bit pricey here, so you may want to consider the many other party locations in the downtown area of Mykonos, or Paradise and Super Paradise beach.

Best Photo Spots

Mykonos is a real paradise for photography lovers. Every corner and street, colorful balconies make it feel and look like a fairytale. To avoid crowds it’s better to start your photo session as early as possible, preferably before 8 am.  The top locations are the narrow streets of the town, the windmills of Kato Mili, Paraportiani Church, cafes and the beach in Little Venice. Read more here.

An Insider's Guide to Mykonos, Greece

 

Europe Food North America

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

Travels may be postponed, flights may be cancelled and passports may be collecting some (temporary) dust… but we here at Dame Traveler don’t believe that means adventure must end. We’ve become refined in the art of armchair exploration – either through the pages of an excellent book, viewing a travel documentary or a virtual tour of the world. While we can’t necessarily hop on a plane to experience the world – we wanted to curate a collection of resources and virtual experiences from the best wineries and wine shops around the globe. This is our virtual wine tour you can experience right at home!

Typically, we always love to add a wine tour to our itinerary – especially when we’re in an area that has a deep vineyard culture and history. Let’s raise a glass, remotely! Gather your wine glass, a cozy blanket and get comfy on your couch. Our virtual wine tour brings the beautiful wine destinations we wish we could experience right now. Cheers! You ready? Let’s go!

Under The Tuscan Sun

We had to begin our virtual wine tour with a little taste of Italy! Tuscan wines have drawn millions of tourists for centuries, and there’s no doubt why. The landscape? Insanely beautiful. The food and wine culture? Intentional, historic and downright delicious. Why not escape into “la bella vita” and learn a little bit about the history of Tuscany and its wines?!

Wine has been a part of Tuscan culture for over three hundred years. Some historians believe that the Etruscans brought Asian vines with them when they settled in the Tuscan area. However, others are convinced that the countryside was already ripe with wild graphs before the Etruscans ever settled there. Nevertheless, the Etruscans really mastered the art of cultivating and domesticating Sangiovese and Lambrusco grapes!

Flash forward to the Duke of Tuscany establishing a boundary to focus Chianti production to the Tuscan region, regulating the wine trade in 1716. Wine became a major agricultural product of Tuscany (and Italy!) – in fact, WW2 nearly devastated the region and the national debt when the winery land was decimated.

Tuscany has become more and more associated with excellent wineries! Travelers today flock to the Tuscan region to get a taste of the good stuff, right from the source, to learn about the individual winery practices passed on for generations. It’s simply a must when exploring the heart of Italy!

What To Sip

Tuscany’s rich and deep legacy of wine-making can seem overwhelming, especially when choosing a bottle! We love sifting through a Verve Wine’s  selection of Sangiovese wines because they really explain what and where individual bottles and vintages come from. Traditional, silky, aromatic and delicate – we love a Sangiovese glass to go with a savory dinner.

Verve Wine has the mindset we love – “best part of drinking wine is the discovery of it all.” As adventurous women, you better believe this speaks to our soul! Their commitment to giving access to great wine, regardless of experience and budget (and without any pretentious attitude!) as us so thankful. Their group sources excellent wines for guests and customers, making a curation of bottles that have us feeling excited and informed!

They have a great monthly wine club with delivery, winemaker events, seminars and tastings too. (P.S. Verve Wine has an excellent wine shop – with same day delivery – in NYC and San Francisco. Once we’re cleared to visit, you better believe we’ll be right there to pick up some of their classics!)

Tuscany Travel Inspo

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

Discover Rosé in Provence

Yes way Rosé! The pink stuff has slowly become one of our favorite wines. Crisp, citrusy, and fresh – its always been a dream of ours to experience a rosé in the sun-drenched, sunflower and lavender kissed land of Provence.

Rosé has an incredible history – aging all the way back to the ancient Greek age. Many of the first recorded rosés were made by watering down blends of white and red grapes. However, it wasn’t until the Romans brought over their field blends to the south of France that rosé really became coveted!

Now, rosé is synonymous with Provence’s rolling hills and rich parcels of land. Provence has been producing wine for over 2,600 years, making it the oldest wine region in all of France! Provence is committed to the art of rosé, as it is the only region to focus on its production and is home to the only research institute dedicated to it.

What To Sip

We’re absolutely obsessed with the legendary Miraval rosé! It’s full of freshness, well-balanced, fruity aromas and citrusy touches too. It’s both refreshing and flavorful, leaving us feeling elegant and celebratory all at once!

Issued from the Miraval Estate’s best parcels of land, right in the heart of Provence – there truly isn’t anything that comes close to having the real thing abroad than this! The château in which the grapes have been issued are the best of the whole of Provence. The vineyard has terraces of clay and limestone, soaking in the cold air pulling throughout the valley, which are truly excellent conditions to make a fresh and elegant rosé. The pure petal pink color have us oohing and ahhing even before our first sip!

Provence & South Of France Travel Inspo

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

Explore California Wine Country

California’s “wine country” is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s truly the perfect addition to any destination on the West Coast, especially for those who have a love and appreciation for vino! A California wine tour draws visitors from every corner of the world, seeking to soak up the sun and taste the delicious bounty of California’s delicious wineries. In fact, wine tours are the second most popular tourist activity in California (after a visit to Disneyland)!

California wine’s history starts with the Spanish Missions in San Diego, establishing themselves throughout the state and growing Criolla grapes to make low-quality wine. Later, French immigrants settled and planted the very first European grape varieties in the bountiful lands.

There was a huge turning point in California’s wine legacy – known as the Judgement of Paris on May 24, 1976. On this pivotal day, the world’s view of California wines forever changed. A legendary French judging panel titled California wines as higher ranking in Chardonnays and Reds than any other in the world… thwarting expectations and catapulting the production of California wines into a legendary status. Now, California is the leading wine producer in the USA, and the fourth largest producer in the world!

What To Sip

Empathy Wine’s bright and delicious white has us drooling! Its summery, light, with tones of lemon, anjou pear and peach. It has us dreaming of early summer temperatures, BBQing in the back porch, hosting friends and family.

We also love Empathy Wine’s transparency and commitment to sustainability and the quality of their wines. They know the absolute ins and outs of each of their wineries, all the way down to the names of the farmers and growers! Sipping on this fresh white gives us the peace of mind that we’re supporting a family (in this case, the white’s heritage comes from Lodi, California, made by Markus & The Mettler Family) and an industry that cares deeply about their product.

California Travel Inspo

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

Adventure To New Zealand’s Lush Wineries

New Zealand – its diverse landscapes, natural beauty and wondrous views have travelers awestruck. For those of us who aren’t quite able to hop on a plane to soak in the beauty of New Zealand, there’s so much to learn about its wine history!

At first glance, New Zealand’s wine culture seems short and sweet, but there’s so much to uncover. The first recorded planting of grapevines ages back to 1819, when Anglican missionaries planted them at the Bay of Islands. Despite the later prohibition movement, New Zealand wine development boomed during WW2 when imported wines became overly tasked. From there, wine production really blossomed until the 1960s (when restaurants were officially allowed to sell wine) and the 1970s improvements to the creation of the Kiwi-classic full dry wines. Less than thirty years ago, there were less than a hundred New Zealand wineries… and now there are over seven times that amount! Wine today in New Zealand are an essential part of growing its thriving food culture.

What To Sip

Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc is the iconic wine we turn to when we’re craving a little slice of New Zealand’s good life. It truly defined New Zealand’s wine and established the Marlborough wine region globally, especially bringing the Cloudy Bay brand into popularity. Their vineyards are located along the gorgeous Wairau Valley, rolling along the Rapaura, Fairhall, Renwick and Brancott sub-regions. (We dream of taking a real wine tour in this region one of these days, but for now virtual will have to do!) Thanks to the iconic region’s stable warm weather during harvest, Cloudy Bay’s grapes are able to steadily ripen for much longer periods of time.

At first sip, we fell in love with its mouthwatering flavor, filled with lots of juicy stone fruit, tropical flavors and a little taste of lemon acidity. It has us dreaming of road tripping around the North and South Islands, windows open, soaking in a sunset by the beach.

New Zealand Travel Inspo

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

Explore Spain’s Catalonia Wine Country

Romantic, lush and downright dreamy than the Spain countryside. The Catalonia region on Spain is flanked by rolling mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, truly an idyllic setting to explore no matter what a traveler’s interests are. In between the modernist architecture of Barcelona, medieval history, verdant valleys and seaside towns – explorers who’ve experienced Catalonia know its undeniable charm.

Catalonia’s wine history has over ten dominant wine regions that focus on full bodied, high alcohol drinks with intense minerality because of its deliciously warm weather. It’s been said that Catalan wine is older than Catalonia itself! Wine production began in the Catalonia region when the Phoenicians and Romans planted the first vines over two thousand years ago. Monks throughout the Arab occupation of the area preserved the wine tradition throughout the region, and nowadays the exportation of Catalonia’s wine is a major part of the regional economy and draws 19 million wine-seeking travelers every year!

What To Sip

There’s nothing quite like a smooth, buttery red straight from heritage Spanish vineyards. Matt Parish’s Spanish Garnacha is intense with flavors of dark cherry and plum, savory and smooth. It’s sourced from the 35-year-old vineyards in the iconic Montsant region of Catalonia. It’s easy to drink, but endlessly bold and flavorful… and Matt was named 2017’s Winemaker of the Year by US Angels! We love serving this up at a dinner party with Spanish style tapas and paella – just like you’d have in Spain!

Nakedwines.com’s mission is to connect wine drinkers (like us!) to the world’s best winemakers, producing hundreds of unique, indie wines we just can’t find anywhere else. Unlike other wine clubs, customers can choose when they’d like to try a wine. Their “angel” members also fund and invest the world’s best independent winemakers by prepaying $40 a month towards their next order. It’s a passion project into discovering more about top-quality wines without inflated marketing costs, and peace of mind knowing that each winemaker is also getting a fair and sustainable deal. It’s one of our go-to resources when we’re feeling curious about distinctive wines out there in the world!

Spain Travel Inspo

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

The Heart of Organic Wine Movement

In recent years, there’s been a new trail blazed in the wine industry. Organic wines! What’s this? Essentially, the base of any organic wine must come from grapes from 100% certified organic vineyards. Organic wines reduce the use of dangerous chemicals, and it’s the next addition to any wine tour wine lover should investigate!

Organic wine creation methods began in Europe as early as the 1960’s. Later in the early 1980’s, US vineyards began to adopt and experiment with organic production. However, the acceptance of organic wines didn’t come easily! For years, traditional wine industries saw the organic movement as a threat and suppliers worried about them spoiling without preservatives.

What truly made the change? The purity of the wine in combination with the organic food movement. Artisanal cooking and the farm to table movement directly shifted the perspective of many food and wine aficionados. In the early 2010’s, fine dining establishments began boasting lists of organic wines on their menus… and the rest is history!

What To Sip

Bonterra Organic Winery has an excellent Merlot that we love to cork open when we’re longing for a real treat. Its 2017 bottle has an excellent balance, filled with notes of black cherries, smoke, plums and vanilla spice. Sourced from one of the oldest and most sustainable farmland, this Merlot is the definition of the organic wine movement… perfect for any wine-lover who’s hoping to learn a little bit more about their favorite drink.

Bonterra’s commitment to their wines is inspired by their biodiverse vineyards with extremely healthy soil, which creates flavorful organic wines. Their mindful farming and winemaking process all begins with their devotion to the backbone of their wines – the grapes. Grown organically from select growers, trading tractors for sheep for weed prevention and running on green power, Bonterra is the epitome of the organic wine movement.

Wine Education Inspo

  • SOMM – a documentary inside the intense world of wine and oil tasting
  • I’ll Drink To That! Wine Podcast 
  • Wine for Normal People Podcast
  • Other Virtual Wine Tours Around The Globe

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

Pacific Northwest Wines

The Pacific Northwest of America isn’t necessarily the first destination travelers think of when it comes to wine. But, in recent years Oregon and Washington have really made a splash in the wine industry! These two states have what many wine experts believe to be the “best of both worlds.” Meaning, their locations can support New World wines because of their warm weather (which results of ripe fruit) and their cool nights can maintain the acidity needed in Old World wines.

Washington’s wine history does not go back as far as California’s, but as the second largest wine producing state in the US, Washington had a tremendous increase in its quality curve.  Wine grapes weren’t really grown here until a while after Prohibition was repealed.  In fact, it was Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that gave Washington a chance at viticulture.  The Columbia River Irrigation Project turned what were vast tracks of desert into fertile, agriculture-sustaining farmland.  Even then it took another 30 years for vitus vinefera (the species of grape used for wine making) to gain substantial plantings that supported commercial wineries.  The first guys on the block were the American Wine Growers.  They are now known as Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Washington’s wineries are filled with a large and diverse amount of grapes and areas to explore. Between its eastern region’s High Steppe Desert and the Columbia Valley’s major wine producing area’s six sub-regions west of the Cascade Mountains… there is a new world of wine tasting to be done in the Pacific Northwest!

What To Sip

Domaine Roy, located in the = Lined with vineyards from Bergström, Cameron, and Maresh, the estate’s 2310 vines per acre grow from some of the richest soil in the region. Their essential 2018 Iron Filbert Pinot Noir is a must-try! This vintage is an eclectic mix of florals, like lavender and sage, with aromas of orange and grapefruit citrus peel. It’s a polished yet rich wine with loads of raspberry, pine and rose that will remain one of our absolute favorites.

Pacific Northwest Winery Inspo

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home


Looking for more wine and travel inspiration? Be sure to check out our round up of excellent travel destinations for wine-lovers (once it is safe to travel again)!

Go on a Virtual Wine Tour From Home

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