Travel Articles
By Janet B. Scraper

Map of Italy

Discover Italy

A culinary and wine experience in Tuscany, Versilia and Liguria

Fall is a glorious time to visit Italy, and in October 2010, I accompanied some of my clients on a 10 day, small group, Culinary and Wine Tour of Tuscany (and more), that I created exclusively for Arrow Discovery Travel. After the tour, I extended my stay another week, to indulge in more of the pleasures of Italy.  The pictures shown are mine (except aerial view of Siena and Monteriggioni)

Florence
We began our tour in Florence, where the Renaissance began. We stayed at a beautifully restored Palazzo, turned hotel, in the Oltrano, the south side of the River Arno, just a couple blocks from the Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace. The hotel was on the Piazza Santo Spirito, pedestrians only, which gave us the experience of living among the neighborhood residents.

The Piazza is built around the Santo Spirito church, outwardly plain, but inside the space is filled with light and grandeur. The church is one of the architect Brunelleschi’s masterpieces, and is worth a visit.  Each morning, merchants set up a market, where locals come in droves to buy fresh produce, flowers, clothing, household items and everything in between.  There are half a dozen restaurants and cafes in the square, where the neighbors meet to share a coffee or grab a quick lunch. We found a little gem in the Osteria Santo Spirito.

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Danube Map

Legendary Danube River Cruise Experience

In July of 2011, my husband Steve and I experienced one of the most popular river cruise itineraries, the 7 Night, Legendary Danube, with Avalon Waterways, cruising from Nuremberg to Budapest. This was an absolutely fabulous experience and I want to share it with you. Our port stops included Regensburg, Germany, Passau & Melk, Austria with overnights in Nuremberg, Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary.

We took advantage of the opportunity to extend our stay for 3 nights in Prague before the cruise and 2 extra nights in Budapest at the end. While I have been to Germany several times, I have not had the opportunity to visit Eastern Europe before and all of the destinations were a wonderful surprise!

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Riviera Map

Exploring the French Riviera by Train

The French Riviera, also known as Cote d'Azur, is a “Bucket List” destination for good reason. It offers some of the most beautiful vistas in the world. Along the southeastern coast of France many scenic villages are nestled along the shore and peeking out from the cliffs overlooking a brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea like pearls on a necklace.

In September 2009, I visited the area for the third time, with a plan to explore using a little known “secret”: the TER train (Transport Express Regional). This local train runs along the coast from Frejus in the west to Ventimiglia, Italy to the east. It also goes into the mountains to Grasse from Cannes and to Tende from Nice or Ventimiglia. The TER train provides a fun and convenient way to discover the jewels nestled in the Cote d’Azur, one day trip at a time. If you travel between June 1st to September 30th you can take advantage of “Carte Isabelle” for 14 Euro a day per person (as of 9/13), with unlimited 1st or 2nd class travel. This is a great value if you plan to visit multiple cities in one day. At the train station we learned that

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