Friday, April 18, 2014

Five of the Best European Countries To Visit In Summer 2014

The dazzling Dubrovnik coastline.
For your summer 2014 travels, look no further than this list we’ve compiled with the help of our travel experts! From the Black Sea to the Pearl of the Adriatic, we’ve selected the most scenic, savory, and satisfying destinations for you and your family to enjoy in summer 2014.

Czech Republic

The stunning skyline of Prague at night.
Prague Castle.
Plan a visit to Prague and enjoy all that this historic city has to offer. With the Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava River and the Prague Castle located in Old Town Square, the city is home to art, architecture, cuisine, and culture. 

Watch performers and puppeteers on the bridge or create your own marionettes. Explore the long tradition of glass making in Prague and design your own glass jewelry to take home as an ultimate souvenir! 

Then there is the food. Eat Czech.

Another don't-miss destination is Cesky Krumlov, a small city that is home to a large Baroque castle and located in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic.

Croatia

Sunset in the walled city of Dubrovnik.
Spend a few days in Croatia soaking up the local sun and delicious cuisine. From fresh seafood to wood-fired pizza, Dubrovnik is home to a host of dining destinations. Explore the pedestrian-only walled city that stands in as “King’s Landing” in popular HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and take in the breathtaking views from above as you travel to the top of the wall to gaze down on the sparking blue waters below.

After that, head to Split, located in the middle of the coastline and home to the Diocletian Palace and a beautiful bay.

Denmark


Nyhavn by sunset - stunning.
The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.
Where else but Copenhagen? In this city you can enjoy morning bicycle tours, tour the castle that was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and take a stroll down Stroget, the world’s longest pedestrian street! Explore Copenhagen’s over 30 miles of waterfront by foot or by boat with your family. 

Don’t miss Tivoli, the first amusement park in Europe and home to over 30 restaurants! In the mood for a sweet treat? Discover Nimb, a boutique hotel in the Tivoli gardens, and enjoy decadent chocolate. And don’t leave before you see the Little Mermaid, one of the most photographed ladies in the world!

Montenegro

The tiny resort of Sveti Stefan offers glamour and luxury to travelers.
Discover one of the best-kept secrets in Europe! Sveti Stefan is a very small, glamorous resort located in the heart of Montenegro on the lovely Adriatic Coast. It's hot because it's an exclusive escape for those in the know. Naturally, as an Aman resort, it's luxurious, but this property is oh-so-beautiful as well.
Breathtaking views from the luxurious Sveti Stefan resort.
It is comprised of two parts — the fifteenth-century fortress of Sveti Stefan Island contains 50 guest rooms, suites and cottages, while the former seaside estate of Villa Miločer across the bay on the mainland offers just eight suites and a guest list that once included Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, and now YOU!

You can also enjoy a trip to the vineyards of the Tici, where you will experience rolling countrysides and learn about family traditions surrounding the Moric olive.

Poland

Town square in the historic city of Warsaw, Poland.
Take in Krakow, where you can explore history museums, enjoy new gourmet dining experiences. One of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, the city has now become an open air museum, and is still very much a thriving town with great restaurants, upscale bars, and stylish hotels. You can even learn to make your own pierogi!

Krakow, Poland
In Warsaw, which resembles a smaller Prague, explore the history of the city’s once-large Jewish population and learn about the rich history. The capital and largest Polish city, Warsaw is situated on the Vistula River and known as a city of palaces.

Plan your 2014 travels to Scandinavia, Central or Eastern Europe, or Russia today. Contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008 or visit our website to learn more about luxury travel through the leading luxury tour operator.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Peer Into Prague: How to enjoy the city like a local

Charles River Bridge, Prague
Explore Prague, Czech Republic, like a local with our insider's guide from a native travel expert.

First-time visitors, head to Charles Bridge upon arrival to Prague.

"Look around at the hundred-spired city and feel the atmosphere of medieval buildings surrounding you. Enjoy some music of local buscers right on the bridge," says native travel guide Lucia.

Making music on the Charles Bridge in Prague



From there, make your way to Old Town square, where you can meander through the historic street mazes of Old Town, and, if you are so inclined, indulge in a beer on the square overlooking Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock. If a creative urge strikes, visit Material and craft – or buy - some glass jewelry.

"Eat czech!"

Prague is a foodie’s delight, with more local Czech cuisines than a visitor could fit into one weekend.

Lucia recommends “a good roast pork or duck with cabbage and some bramborak (a potato pancake); potato dumpling, sausage or venition pate; naturally, well splashed down by beer."

To enjoy the taste of these and other local delicacies, visit KolkovnaSavarin or Mlsný kocour in the Vinohrady quarter, which features tank Pilsner beer and is more frequented by locals.

After you’ve gotten a taste for local cuisine, step to some fine places like Cafe Imperial or Hergetova Cihelna – still Czech cusine, but not as heavy, according to Lucia.

Restaurant Misnej Kocour
For Italian cusine, try La Finestra, she says, or the less formal Grosseto Marina, where there are amazing views along the the Vlatva river, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.

For excellent homemade strudel, stop by Susta Strudl in the Zizkov quarter.

Lucia and her son at Můj šálek kavy, a coffee shop in Prague.
“If you tell me ‘book your favourite restaurant for a nice dinner‘ I am choosing V Zatisi. With friends, we like to go to Lehka hlava – a hip, vegetarian place. Lately I discovered Oblaka, a newly redesigned restaurant in the Zizkovska telecommunication tower, and Mujsalek kavy - a coffee shop in the sparkling, growing Karlin quarter where I‘ve enjoyed cake bábovka and freshly brewed tea and coffee.“

If Lucia makes one thing is clear, it’s this: “Eat czech!"

Summertime City

In the summer, local residents of Prague spend time in nature, visiting castles like Karlstejn, which can be reached by bike for many via "a pretty road along the Berounka river." They also frequent Ceskýráj, a nature reserve rich with sandstone rocks, castles and ruins, and enjoy canoeing on the first part of Vltava river – a pastime connected with "the guitar playing of old tramping/bluegrass songs, and beer drinking, and camping."

Kampa Island and mill in the Vlatva River
Other summer destinations include "the southern Bohemian lakes by Trebon town, where there are also great spas, and the southern Moravian region around Mikulov town‘s vine cellars," Lucia shares.

Prague Castle
Visitors who want to branch out on adventurous excursions should consider a trip to Kutna Hora town. Don’t miss Bauer Villa or Chateau Kotera, Lucia‘s favorite.

"We‘ve gone to this medieval city already for many years to admire St. Barbora, Our Lady churches, and the ossuary. But now you can see also unique Bauer Villa, built in the Cubist architecture style - a real jewel for learning about Cubism."

Chateau Kotera, meanwhile, is a superb building made by the founder of Czech modernistic architecture, Jan Kotera.

What is the number one reason to visit Prague? 

“I often hear people say ‘We want to see the history,'" Lucia shares. "But at the end of the trip, the best thing for them is the great feeling of relaxing, leisure time, joy of life, learning about different cultures and tasting local foods. 


They bring home from Prague not only pictures, 
but also unforgettable memories in their hearts."


Street art in Prague
Visit the Exeter Travel Journal again next week - Lucia will share more about Prague’s lifestyle, culture, music, and arts.

Plan your 2014 travels to Scandinavia, Central or Eastern Europe, or Russia today. Contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008 or visit our website to learn more about luxury travel through the leading luxury tour operator.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Summer in Sweden – Stockholm Stopover

Spend your 2014 summer travels in Sweden! 

Stockholm, Sweden
Whether your passion is art, music, design or food, Stockholm has plenty to offer even to the most discerning globetrotter. The city is built on 14 islands where Lake Malaren flows into the Baltic Sea - a unique maritime landscape known as the Stockholm Archipelago.

At Exeter International, we recommend 3 days in Stockholm, Sweden.

In the center of the city are Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen, two islands that make up Northern Europe's largest and best-preserved medieval city dating back to the 13th century. Not to be missed!

Secret Stockholm: Tips for Your Travels
  • Spend an evening enjoying a cocktail at the Absolut Ice Bar, where the fixtures and glasses are made of ice.
  • Take a boat from the heart of the city to Drottningholm Castle, the Versailles of the North and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Find the food trucks that frequent the city’s cultural scene.
  • For an authentic travel experience, enjoy Stockholm City Bikes.

Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm, Sweden.
Stockholm Culture Festival is taking place for the ninth year in a row August 12-17, 2014. 
Filled with “a smorgasbord of vibrant culture,” and welcoming travelers and visitors of all ages, this six-day event is completely free. Take part in the music, dance and art that the inner city has to offer, with many different stages and performance areas in the city centre, where the festival will take place.

Highlights of Stockholm:
  • Vasa Museumfeaturing the warship, Vasa, which sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and lay in the Baltic Sea for 300 years, before it was salvaged.
  • Nordiska Museum, located in a magnificent turn of the century palace in Royal Djurgarden.
  • The Royal Palace, including the Royal Apartments, the Royal Armory and the Changing of the Guard.
  • City Hallthe site of the annual Nobel Prize banquet.

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.
Sweden’s unique charm and character delightfully contrast the small Scandinavian realm’s modernity and natural beauty.

Immerse yourself into the culture of Sweden by visiting the nearby towns of Uppsala and Sigtuna and idyllic communities such as Trosa, Vaxholm and Mariefred, the location of Gripsholm Castle, one of Sweden's most impressive monuments.

Often described as one of the world’s most modern countries, Sweden also beckons travelers to linger in its past. Discover priceless natural luxuries like wide-open vistas and untouched wilderness, all within easy reach of the capital city of Stockholm.

Stockholm, Sweden.
Spring in Stockholm means a renewed vigor when flowers bloom and the city and its people take on a revived energy. Summer is, of course, the most glorious season when the sun dances on the glittering harbor waters and ferries carry locals and visitors out to the magical archipelago.

In Stockholm, autumn brings vibrant colors and the air is invigorating. Winter transforms the shining city into a shimmering landscape of snow and ice where warm lights glowing invitingly from within the windows. 

Stockholm celebrates these changing seasons with a variety of holidays and festivals, making the entire year a perfect time to visit!

For further reading about 2014 Sweden travel, please explore these hand-selected guidebooks. Click here to connect with our in-house Scandinavian specialist, Leigh.

Plan your 2014 travels to Scandinavia, Central or Eastern Europe, or Russia today. Contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008 or visit our website to learn more about luxury travel through the leading luxury tour operator.

Exeter International Named 2013 Awards of Excellence "Best Local Destination Management Company" at ULTRA Summit

Exeter International is proud to announce that we have been honored by Luxury Travel Advisor as a 2013 Awards of Excellence winner!
Chicago, Il.; host city of the 2014 ULTRA Summit. Photo Credit: Luxury Travel Advisor
Best Local Destination Management Company: 
Exeter International

At the second annual ULTRA Summit hosted by Luxury Travel Advisor, part of Questex Travel Group, 2013 Awards of Excellence winners were honored during a commemoration ceremony held at the Langham, Chicago. This lavish cocktail party brought leading travel agency owners and managers together to celebrate the Awards of Excellence nominees and winners. 

Luxury Travel Advisor will feature 2013 Awards of Excellence winners in an upcoming 2014 issue.

The leading luxury tour operator.
"Every year, Luxury Travel Advisor’s Awards of Excellence spotlights suppliers that deliver outstanding experiences and provide top-notch service around the world.

'As traveler preferences demand a higher level of service with every new hotel opening, tour, flight and cruise itinerary, luxury travel suppliers are increasingly called upon to evolve the ultra-luxury landscape,' remarked Ruthanne Terrero, vice president of content and editorial director for Questex Travel Group. 
'This year’s Awards of Excellence winners signify that ultra-luxury suppliers continue to exceed traveler expectations through service paramount to the best the industry has to offer.'"

For a complete list of the 2013 Awards of Excellence Winners, visit Luxury Travel Advisor.

Plan your visit to Russia, Central or Eastern Europe, or Scandinavia today. Contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008 or visit our website to learn more about luxury travel through the leading luxury tour operator.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

With Love From Russia

Exeter International is the leader in luxury travel to Eastern & Central Europe, Scandinavia and Russia. Since 1992, we have been surpassing expectations and delivering unique and extraordinary experiences to the most discerning of travelers.


A magnificent view of the Red Square, a city square in Moscow, Russia.
One of our Exeter International Travel Specialists, Dasha, received quite high praise recently for the thoughtful, unique travel experience she planned for a couple visiting Russia. See what they had to say below:

"My Dear Dasha,


How can my husband and I thank you enough for all the attention to detail and painstaking arrangements you made in order for us to have such an phenomenal experience? We enjoyed every single day of our trip, so much! Our tour guides were each wonderful, and the dinner we enjoyed at Nicolai and Svetlana Piskaryov's home was really the main highlight for us.
What a beautiful, exceptional couple! OH, we loved every single minute in their company. We were so inspired by them, their garden, their love. 

"It was an experience we will carry 

with us for the rest of our lives."
The nighttime city skyline of Moscow, Russia.
 Of all the guides we have ever had throughout our travels, Katya was the very best ever. She was simply wonderful; beautifully dressed every day, incredibly bright and informative, gracious - everything she did was in such good taste.

"I especially loved our tour guide because she understood 
that each day was an occasion for us." 

Regardless of how many thousands of times she had been in each of the locations we visited, she had the enthusiasm and freshness in her approach, as though she was seeing it for the first time!

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia
Thank you so very much for arranging a beautiful cake and champagne, and for so graciously gifting this to Ron along with our lunch. How very, very generous and stylish of you to do this for him. Who else shall I thank for treating him to this? It was simply perfectly done, as was the trip. If anyone we know is interested in planning a trip to Russia, we will whole-heartedly recommend you, Dasha. 

What can I possibly say to express our joy and gratitude for all you did to ensure that this trip of a lifetime was everything it could possibly be for us? SUPERB!!!

Fond regards,
Shauna"


Plan your visit to Russia, Central or Eastern Europe, or Scandinavia today. Contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008 or visit our website to learn more about luxury travel through the leading luxury tour operator.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Russian Restaurant Review: Admiralty Restaurant, Catherine Palace Grounds

Catherine Palace, summer residence of the Russian tsars,
is located just 16 miles southeast of St. Petersburg, Russia.
From flavorful soups and stews to regional blinis, blintzes, and beverages, Russia is renowned for its customary cuisine. In select venues here in the world’s largest country, the dining experience goes beyond the menu to reveal Russian art, architecture, and ambiance.

For true lovers of Russian restaurants and regional cuisine, Exeter International President Greg Tepper shares a recommendation from a recent Russian restaurant experience he enjoyed with Ala, our Exeter International UK partner:

The Admiralty Restaurant, located on the grounds of the Catherine Palace, on the banks of the Great Pond of Catherine Park, just outside of St. Petersburg, Russia.

“Last week, Ala and I stumbled onto a restaurant on the grounds of Catherine Palace that everyone should know about. It’s the Admiralty Restaurant, and as you can see from the photos below, it’s quite charming,” Tepper reveals.

Dining room at the Admiralty Restaurant, Catherine Palace Grounds.
“The Admiralty Restaurant is located on the bank of the pond in Catherine Park in the small town of Pushkin, not far from the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. The restaurant has been serving traditional cuisine in this historic venue for ten years. With the same ownership as celebrated restaurant Podvorye, this eatery offers authentic Russian cuisine. Unique touches for this restaurant include the location, tucked into a lavish park setting, and an intimate dining area. Decorated charmingly with hints of maritime influence and historic Russian furnishings, it’s the perfect mealtime venue for small groups and independent travelers.

Admiralty Restaurant, Catherine Palace Grounds.
“At Admiralty Restaurant, the menu features many of the signature dishes one hopes to enjoy at a during a dining experience in Russia, including: borscht, fish soup, chicken Kiev, etc. (and, of course, plenty of dill!). Non-traditional Russian items are also prepared masterfully, such as salmon in a cream sauce over tagliatelle. All quite tasty.”

For travelers who may be wondering, “What is borscht?” this is a very traditional dish frequently served in Russia. This soup of Ukrainian origin is a hearty broth made with a beetroot base. It is typically served as a chilled dish in Eastern European countries, as well as in Russia. 

Curious about chicken Kiev? This buttery dish is comprised of breaded chicken breasts rolled around herbed butter, fried, and then baked. The seasoned, buttery center almost “explodes” with rich taste when cut at serving!

The Admiralty Restaurant is a one-of-a-kind destination to explore and experience when visiting St. Petersburg, Russia. Catherine Palace, the summer residence of the Russia tsars, is located just 16 miles southeast of St. Petersburg, Russia in Pushkin. The residence, which was crafted throughout the early- to mid- 18th century, is in the Rococo, or Late Baroque, style.

In short, Tepper shares, “I would recommend this restaurant when out in Catherine Palace and Pavlovsk this summer.”

To book luxury travel to St. Petersburg in summer 2014, or to learn more about luxury travel to Eastern Europe, contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008 or visit our website today. 

For an Extraordinary Travel Experience with behind-the-scenes access to St. Petersburg historical sites, view a Sample Itinerary.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

An Insider’s Guide to 2014 Summer Travel in Dubrovnik, Croatia: Part II

Travelers planning to visit Eastern Europe in summer 2014, we have a don’t-miss destination to add to your list: Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Visit the “Pearl of the Adriatic” with Lejla, an Exeter International travel partner who lives, works, and plays in the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik. If you haven't read An Insider’s Guide to 2014 Summer Travel in Dubrovnik, Croatia: Part I, allow us to introduce Lejla:
In our Insider’s Guide to 2014 Summer Travel in Dubrovnik, Croatia: Part II, we’ll talk with Lejla about where the locals go to play, cultural destinations of Dubrovnik, music, and more!
On the number one reason to visit Dubrovnik:
“The number one reason to visit Dubrovnik is… a bundle of various reasons which shaped Dubrovnik and make it unique in the world! These are: history (old and new), architecture, nature, setting, diversity of experiences, vividness (during the season) and privacy.”
On tips for first-time visitors: 

“For a first time visitor, I definitely recommend having at least an orientation tour booked with a licensed local guide for various reasons.
One: You get to learn how to get around in the city - what sights, shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. are located where.
Two: You will get to learn at least a bit about the culture of the locals, tradition and lifestyle of residents of Dubrovnik (of course, also about the history and architecture, if interested!) You do not necessarily have to visit numerous churches, museums, fountains, or galleries if you do not wish to, but should you want to learn how to get around, where things are, and what kind of city Dubrovnik is, along with the people who live in it… the best introduction to this is a local guide.”
On can’t-miss destinations:
“I can’t say there is ONE favorite cultural place of mine in Dubrovnik! I like going to Dubrovnik’s art gallery or Sponza Palace when there are some interesting exhibitions, or to a concert at the Rector’s Palace. I enjoy going to the cultural events of Dubrovnik Summer Festival or, for example, Film Food Festival Ston, which takes place every September.
Other destinations that should not be missed in Croatia are:
Zagreb. Croatia’s capital city, and it is also the core of Croatia’s cultural, artistic and intellectual scene.
Istria. Along with history and architecture like the Pula amphitheater, visitors are rewarded with an amazing natural setting - a combination of a beautiful coast and equally beautiful and dynamic countryside – as well as gastronomy (extremely well-preserved traditional cuisine with accent on extraordinary olive oil, wines, truffles and home-made pasta… and, of course, fish and sea fruits as well).
Hvar Island. A crazy and unique mixture of laid back lifestyle, history, architecture, natural beauty and vivid nightlife. Very active in July and August.
Vis Island. Perfectly suited for foodies and those who simply want to enjoy peace and the serenity of the island and the sea while sailing.”
On how locals spend their summers:
“As Dubrovnik can get pretty busy during the summer period, locals like to get on their small boats and head toward either Elaphiti islands or to find another remote, hidden bay. We start very early in the morning, having our boats packed with food, water, wine, beer, friends and guitars. Once anchored, we have breakfast, then we swim in the crystal clear sea (no sharks!), sunbath on the boat, do some fishing or snorkeling, play cards on the boat with friends, laugh, eat again, swim again… and come back home as the sun comes down. Peace and serenity: sun, sea, food & wine, family & friends… an indescribable feeling."
On the music and arts scene:
“Dubrovnik’s music and art scene is very vivid during the summer period. The most famous festival is the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which takes place every year from July 10th to August 25th for 65 years now. It is centered on plays and classical music concert performances that take place in various, amazing scenic venues: in front of Dubrovnik Cathedral, in the atrium of the Rector’s Palace, on Lokrum Island, at the Lovrjenac fortress, on the Revelin fortress, or in similar breathtaking open-air settings.
For the younger generation, there is the Park Orsula Festival, to which locals gladly go. Park Orsula as an archaeological locality has become a panoramic gazebo and summer stage. Music ranges from alternative electro music to jazz to Croatian performers. 
Inspired by the idea of a summer stage that Dubrovnik needed and that should be functioning on a long-term basis, Ambient Croatia Association renovated and preserved the remains of St. Ursula’s chapel from the 14th century, built an amphitheater with 350 seating capacity, ensured electricity and primary fire protection, and forested the locality (Ambient Croatia is an association for the international promotion of cultural, historic and natural heritage).”
On Croatian culture:
“In order to learn more and understand our lifestyle and culture in Croatia, one has to be willing to start from the past, because Dubrovnik’s glorious history is still influencing and shaping us today. This means getting together with a good local guide who would familiarize you with the past while strolling through Old Town. After that, I would recommend going out of the town to Konavle and/or Peljesac because this is where from all the wealth of the former glorious Dubrovnik Republic came.
From Konavle, this meant cattle, agricultural produce, silk, wool, clear water; while from Peljesac (or to be more accurate Ston) it was salt, which in former days had the same if not a higher value than gold. This is why in Ston you will find Europe’s longest city walls (5 kilometers long; Ston today is also extremely well known for mussels and oyster cultivation). 
In this way, you get to know the region, and learn about the crafts that boosted the economy and left traces on today’s culture, customs, tradition and lifestyle in Dubrovnik.”
On the walled city:
“Dubrovnik, although world famous, is actually a very small town with only 43,000 inhabitants in the city and 122,000 in the Dubrovnik-Neretva county. Furthermore, Dubrovnik is a sleepy beauty during the winter period, before it blossoms in the spring. It becomes very busy during the summer months of June, July, August, as most cultural events are organized during the summer period.”

About Lejla:
“Initially I wanted to study psychology, but living in a tourist destination such as Dubrovnik and living abroad, I realized I want something more dynamic and diverse, where I get the chance to incorporate various interests of mine, such as psychology, sociology, planning & organizing. Being out there doing something, languages, different cultures, travel, and most of all, learning more about the country I love with each day - and having the possibility to share this with people from around the world. That’s how I ended up graduating at the American College of Management and Technology (Rochester Institute of Technology), and after gathering experience in the tourism sector I opened up my boutique business.”
Don’t miss An Insider’s Guide to 2014 Summer Travel in Dubrovnik, Croatia: Part I, where we discuss that most essential of vacation topics: cuisine!

Are you considering summer 2014 travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia? Visit our website to view a Sample Itinerary. Contact Exeter International by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008.